Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Townhall on July 2, 2018.
Today America dominates the globe. It’s easy to forget that the United States almost didn’t exist.
In 1776 a rag-tag group of British colonists met in Philadelphia. Resistance to British exactions had begun more than a decade before. Armed resistance broke out the previous year.
Angry over British restrictions on their liberties and outraged that their mother country was warring against her own people—and had rejected the latest conciliatory petition sent to London—the Continental Congress declared independence. On July Fourth delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, which became one of history’s most recognizable milestones in advancing human liberty.
The Declaration includes some of the English language’s most famous writing: “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.” Drafter Thomas Jefferson captured the essence of those later known as Americans, while oppressed peoples around the world later turned to the Declaration when calling for their freedom.
However, the document also included a bill of particulars. It not only asserted a right of revolution, but explained why Americans were justified in separating from their colonial parent. To defeat the world’s most powerful nation, the colonists needed allies. Ultimately French support proved critical.
Today we admire the Declaration as historic literature. But at the time it was a profoundly revolutionary document. The 56 men who affixed their signatures were committing an act of treason. If their campaign failed, they could, and likely would, be hung. After all they were instigating rebellion in all 13 colonies. When John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, affixed his super-size signature, he supposedly declared: “I guess King George will be able to read that.”
With victory they avoided the gallows, but most of them suffered during the war which their defiance made inevitable. One of the signers was seized by pro-British Tories and imprisoned. A number of them served in the military. Four signers were captured in combat. A couple had sons killed or captured in battle.
Many lost homes, businesses, and wealth. Their families suffered. However, the signers believed in liberty and accepted the cost of fighting for it.
Without these brave Americans there would be no United States. We owe our liberty to them.
But the battle is not over. When leaving the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what government had been created. He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” We have spent the last 231 years fighting to do just that. Through foreign attack, a terrible civil war, and global conflicts. In the midst of internal divisions, economic crises, and even violent strifes.
And against constant pressure by government to expand, swallowing ever more of our lives and destroying ever more of our liberties. At home and abroad abusive government proved to be the most imperialistic institution. As a result, warned the redoubtable Thomas Jefferson, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
The struggle continues. And we are lucky on July 4, 2018 to have President Donald Trump as our champion. As his critics repeatedly point out, he isn’t perfect. But neither are they. Nor even the Founders, who most Americans revere.
But at this critical moment, when the entire American experiment is at risk, we need a president willing to fight, and fight hard. The aggressive, authoritarian Left has launched Total War for control of the country. Radical forces determined to seize political power plan to impose their totalitarian worldview on the rest of us. We see the pernicious impact of PC on universities, misuse of anti-discrimination laws to attack religious liberty, and transformation of major corporations into weapons of liberal social engineering.
This is not the time to be silent or stay home. Our families, communities, liberties, and faiths are at risk. Many conservative activists are battling on our behalf. But who imagined before November 2016 that the toughest one of all would be a New York City millionaire never before active in politics? Because of him, this July Fourth we can celebrate several critical conservative Supreme Court victories. Imagine if President Hillary Clinton were in charge!
On July 4th every year we remember our history, the creation of our great nation. We also celebrate the fact that the flag flies over an America that is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” as our national anthem grandly declares. But to ensure that continues in the future, we must fight, today and forever.
Have a great Independence Day!