"You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not."
These men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. They did not sign that document easily, likely pausing for just a moment, pausing, not hesitating, bending as needed but not bowing, signing with fierce, exultant belief in what they were doing, even knowing they were now likely damned forever of all peace.
The American Revolutionary War of Independence was not an exercise in "the possible." Most Americans believed it was impossible to resist the King's Officers and win colonial freedom in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was an act of treason, punishable by death..
Our founders knew all of this going in, understood the almost insurmountable difficulties ahead of them, but chose freedom anyway. In signing the document they pledged their not insubstantial fortunes, their good name, their very lives. How many signers of the Declaration were put to death or imprisoned, their fortunes destroyed, their families punished? What was the total civilian economic price of freedom in 1776? How many years did we fight a Revolutionary War? How many were killed in battle because Thomas Paine correctly predicted victory and rightly demanded action? We need to remember these facts, we need to pass them on to each and every generation, not just on the 4th of July.
It was a course correction of the highest order. No longer were the rulers going to be absolute. This land would become a people's choice through a representative form of government. Still there would always be those that wished to be told what to do, to accept their fates without protest, as long as someone else put food on the table. They existed then, and they exist even more so now and it's a constant battle to maintain our freedoms when there are so many that simply don't care, as long as there is a big screen TV and empty words that all is right in the world.
When the constitution was drafted there was so much in the culture of this country that contributed to such a change in how we were governed and by whom - a common language, a solid belief in the principles of common law and constitutionalism, a widespread commitment to God (even in diverse forms of worship) and even more importantly, an economic environment that promised, not great wealth, but independent sufficiency. It was something, that for our founders, was worth risking their lives and livelihood for. It is something we are watching slip away.
Yet those sacrifices bore fruit, attracting more immigrants who came here legally, giving full measure of their hard work and loyalty to our flag,our language, adding to the strength and productivity of this great nation.
Today is not the 4th of July, it's Independence Day. Around the country there will be too many people thinking of it as just a day off, a chance to grill or get drunk, to make noise for the sole purpose of making noise, forgetting what this day is all or about, or even worse, not caring. Outside, our country, we gave wasted too many years apologizing to our enemies, the act of a once mighty animal crawling to a foreign watering hole, to drink in the act of dying, instead of displaying that which still has great power with a citizenry armed and ready to defend.
What would our Founding Fathers think if they were here today, and saw what was happening to the country they gave their blood for?
In Chapter 10 of the fourth in the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, one of the characters, a former sailor, (who were the only warriors in his now dead society), said" "Never had I much respect for the landsmen of my day. They remained in their walled cities wasting their time in play, depending for their protection entirely upon the sea race."
Given how long ago those words were penned,, they are prophetic indeed. And yet,we still have many in this country, willing to defend her. America is far from a dying entity, we are still many strong of those law abiding citizens, so many who have served their Country, who believe in what she was founded on and have offered our life to uphold and protect that, brothers in arms.
What is it about the locomotive I'm always drawn to? Perhaps it's just that motion, that impulse to move, to gather steam and fire into force and purpose, moving into the light of a new day.
Let us remember that our freedom was purchased with a very high price. Let us not forget there is still a fight within us. Even those of us that, for duties bound, must remain mostly silent, yet quietly toil to preserve those freedoms. For sometimes that silence lies over a fathomless, abiding love for the freedoms we have inherited, as well as a fierce determination to see them survive for our posterity
Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman after the Constitutional Convention was over "Well Doctor - what have we got. A monarchy or a Republic?" Franklin replied quickly and without any hesitation. "A Republic, IF you can keep it".
The train is long out of sight, its thunderous fury long past, wheels in motion, shiny fittings that gleamed in the morning light, like sabers, now only a fading ghost of shadow. It's whistle is only an echo, forlorn, inviolate, yet still with us, as long as there are those who can tell its story, who can remember the power of its purpose.
Happy Independence Day -