On 2 July, 1776, the Continental Congress declared freedom from Britain. The Declaration of Independence was signed 4 July, 1776, and the majority of signatures were given to this document in August.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Adams said of this new nation, “It was patched and piebald policy then, as it is now, ever was and ever will be, world without end.” We see even today the unique challenges and opportunities of this “American Experiment”.
Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist I, pleads to the people, “Yes, my countrymen, I own to you that, after having given it an attentive consideration, I am clearly of opinion that it is your interest to adopt [the Constitution]. I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness.”
Two-hundred forty-one years later, we stand with history at our backs. The great men and women of American upbringing, countless immigrants who have made these lands their homes, masters of industry and political prowess; they made way for what we now experience – the boons of prosperity, and the burdens we endure.
When this government was founded, it was a upon a belief of freedom from tyranny, and these new “Americans” died for this conviction.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Two documents: a Declaration and a Constitution. These are the backbone of America. We, the people… We comprise everything else. One no greater or lesser than any other. The military is our great skin, protecting us from external forces, and ensuring “common defence.” The three branches of government allows for “domestic Tranquility,” “Justice,” & promoting the “general welfare” of the citizenry.
The “Blessings of Liberty” are ours, and it is with great pride that one can call themselves an American. The political tides will change from time to time in this Country, and it is still at best “patched and piebald policy.” But the belief in this experiment, this liberty and justice for all, guides the people of this Nation towards the unknown future, as it always has done.
George Washington had this to say in his farewell address:
“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”
In closing, I am of the opinion that people may fail, and policies may falter. But the notions with which this Country was established will remain in perpetuity, so long as someone still remains that will say they are American. Happy Fourth of July.