On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail.
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
We’ve certainly taken Adams up on the shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations. But July 4 is also a great time to remember the Creator who bestowed his bountiful blessings on this country – and who bestowed each individual with the capacity for free choice and the right to exercise it.
Each Independence Day, I try to think of what it was like for the Founding Fathers when they signed the Declaration of Independence. They knew they were putting their necks in the noose by signing the document; in the case of Continental Congress Delaware delegate Cesar Rodney, who was suffering from facial cancer, almost literally – the only decent care for facial cancer at the time was in England. It was truly either liberty or death for these patriots.
Today, many Americans, including President Obama and the mainstream media, protest against the very freedoms for which the Founding Fathers stood. The right to earn one’s own way in the world. The right to keep one’s own money, to build a life for oneself free of government regulation and interference. The right to practice religion free of government compulsion. The right to sell and buy products free of mandates … or taxes … or whatever Obama feels like calling his tyrannical legislation this week.
America’s founding ideals were great ideals, worth preserving. Independence Day celebrates our independence, not just from Britain, but from a form of government that dominates the individual. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are not just words. They are the values for which America stands. And they do not mean government guaranteeing housing, health care, and food stamps. What makes human beings special, as the Founders recognized, was our individual capacity to create – and only preserving and fostering that capacity justified a government. America has always understood that, and sought to foster it.
Now, Americans must fight to preserve their rights. Not every American celebrates Independence Day for the right reasons. It’s not about the hot dogs or the ballgames or the fireworks. It’s about those men who stood together in the face of the greatest military power on the face of the earth, and said, “Our individual rights are worth fighting for.”