Wednesday, July 4, 2007

"Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor"

This is the day of the year where Americans the world over celebrate our Independence. We gather together, grill out, play games outside, drink lots of alcohol {and i had to work - LN}. Finally, as the day winds down, the sun slips below the horizon and the dark descends upon the revelers, we crane our necks skyward and proceed to be delighted by fireworks displays which light up the night.

There is a deeper meaning than this celebration. One that sometimes gets lost in our day of joy.

I'm speaking of the original 4th of July, 1776. The day when our country's Forefathers declared our intentions to bring forth a new nation unto this world. The creators and signatories of the Declaration of Independence worked long and hard and pledged their lives, fortunes and their sacred honor to this new nation they were about to midwife.

It is this time of year that I bring out my copy of the Declaration of Independence and read it. You can find it pretty much anywhere online but here's one link to it (it appears each July 4th in the Washington Times);

I also bring out a copy of a speech that was given many times by Rush H. Limbaugh Jr (yes, he's the father of the famous radio talk show host). This speech is exemplary and I thought I'd share excerpts of his speech with you.
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast. Up especially early, a tall bony, redheaded young Virginian found time to buy a new thermometer, for which he paid three pounds, fifteen shillings. He also bought gloves for Martha, his wife, who was ill at home.

Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. Facing the single door were two brass fireplaces, but they would not be used today.

The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stockings was nothing to them." All discussing was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.
A total of 86 alterations were made. Almost 500 words were eliminated, leaving 1,337. At last, after three days of wrangling, the document was put to a vote.

Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: "I am no longer a Virginian, sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.

Francis Lewis, New York delegate saw his home plundered -- and his estates in what is now Harlem -- completely destroyed by British Soldiers. Mrs. Lewis was captured and treated with great brutality. Though she was later exchanged for two British prisoners through the efforts of Congress, she died from the effects of her abuse.

John Hart of Trenton, New Jersey, risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. Hessian soldiers rode after him, and he escaped in the woods. While his wife lay on her deathbed, the soldiers ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead. Hart, 65, slept in caves and woods as he was hunted across the countryside. When at long last, emaciated by hardship, he was able to sneak home, he found his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779, without ever finding his family.

And, finally, there is the New Jersey signer, Abraham Clark.

He gave two sons to the officer corps in the Revolutionary Army. They were captured and sent to that infamous British prison hulk afloat in New York Harbor known as the hell ship Jersey, where 11,000 American captives were to die. The younger Clarks were treated with a special brutality because of their father. One was put in solitary and given no food. With the end almost in sight, with the war almost won, no one could have blamed Abraham Clark for acceding to the British request when they offered him his sons' lives if he would recant and come out for the King and Parliament. The utter despair in this man's heart, the anguish in his very soul, must reach out to each one of us down through 200 years with his answer: "No."
The 56 signers of the Declaration Of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
Rush suggests (and I agree) that;
each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the Declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.

There is no more profound sentence than this: "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..."

These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.

"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.
I have read and re-read both the Declaration of Independence and his father's speech more times than I can remember. When I need a reminder of how precious our liberty is and how unique the United States of America is in the annals of history, I simply pull out my hard-copy and receive a jolt of pride and humility up my spine.

Pride in the fact that I'm part of the legacy of those great men and women who have come before me and who have shaped the course of this nation.

Humility in recognizing that we cannot rest on their laurels and must continue to uphold the tenents that our Forefathers held forth.

I pledge to all of you on this day that I will continue to work, in both my private and public life, to make sure that this "American Experiment" will not disappear in the shifting sands of time.

God Bless you all...

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY !!! -{great post Thai, happy 4th to you and yours too - LN}

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