Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Freedom Fighters

Who of us is not familiar with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, The Adams', John & Samuel, and Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and James Monroe? I am sure that the names linger, even though most of us through attrition of memory have forgotten a good deal of what we learned about them in our school years. Suffice it to say that if someone mentions The Founding Fathers, at least one or two of those names will come forth. I hear the phrase frequently these days with so much controversy swirling about our Constitution and the rights we have been granted under it. Rights that are seemingly, more and more, under attack these days.

In 1761, from Maine to Georgia, (the 13 Colonies) we were Englishmen. We had celebrated the coronation of our new King, George III, we were loyal British subjects and life was good. England, however, had just fought and won the Seven Years War and it was King George's wish that the American Colonies help to pay for this adventure. Still loyal subjects of the crown, but feeling that we were independent, free men, we started a ten year journey on the path to rebellion.

The midwife at our birth was the Magna Carta, a five hundred year old document which was the heart and soul of every Englishman. It had established that no man was above the law, not even the King. This then was the standard we used, as free and independent men, in our protest against what we considered an unfair and unjust situation perpetrated on us by the motherland and our King.

We had no central government. We were 13 separate colonies that had been settled by Englishmen as well as French, Scots, Welsh, Irish, Dutch, Swedes and Germans, among others, the original "melting pot". Diversity was alive and well in the 1700's and out of this diversity came a revolution which would change the course of our nation. From Massachusetts to Virginia we had men standing up to advance the course of independence, and, with no central government of our own, we relied on a Congress which was little more than a gathering of 54 men who came from very different backgrounds, different regions and held very different views. Most did not know each other and some did not like each other. And yet they united in the common goal of independence.

This Congressional body had no right to levy taxes, regulate any commerce and no power to enforce their decisions. Yet, they managed to overcome their differences, draft a Declaration of Independence, fight and win a war against the greatest miltary power of the day, and create a whole new sovereign nation, The United States of America. Remember this, however, that everything they did was a traitorous act, and, in the words of Abraham Clark, a Declaration of Independence signer, "Perhaps our Congress will be exalted on a high gallows."

Today, as we sit and watch an almost daily assault on those liberties which they fought so hard to gain, for themselves and their posterity, liberties which for far too long, have been taken for granted, I would like to post some quotes from some of the men of that time. Perhaps they will encourage us to fight as hard as did our ancestors, to hold onto that which is slowly being eroded by another George, two hundred and thirty years later.

  • When the last dutiful and humble petition from congress received no other answer than declaring us rebels, and out of the King's protection, I from that moment look'd forward to a Revolution and Independence, as the only means of Salvation; and will risque the last Penny of my Fortune and the last Drop of my Blood upon the Issue.—George Mason, October 2, 1778

  • We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation, similar to the present, hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand.—Thomas Paine, February 14, 1776.

  • [The Constitution of the United States] was not, like the fabled goddess of wisdom, the offspring of one brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands.—James Madison, March 10, 1834

  • The sacred rights of mankind are not rummaged for among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.—Alexander Hamilton, 1775

  • The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their will and lives only by their will.—Chief Justice John Marshall, 1821

  • Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!—Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

    And, finally, a speech, again made by Patrick Henry, when Virginia was called upon to ratify the Constitution. Henry saw the need for checks and balances, as did George Mason.

  • Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?—Patrick Henry 1788

    Susan B. Goodwin

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