Independence Day Inspiration: make it meaningful!

Summary; Today we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, a a milestone on the march to American independence. But we should also remember that journey’s now almost lost beginning — events equally heroic but more relevant and inspirational to us today.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We have spent the prime of our lives in procuring {for our children} the precious blessing of liberty. Let them spend theirs in shewing that it is the great parent of science and of virtue; and that a nation will be great in both, always in proportion as it is free. ”

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Willard, 24 March 1789.


We’re free, but how did we become so? Every successful round of political reform begins with people deciding to act and then organizing like minded people. Why not celebrate Independence Day by joining this company of people who have profoundly shaped our civilization?

In 1772 Samuel Adams and others decided to start the Committees of Correspondence, the first step on the road to independence. In 1785 Benjamin Franklin and others organized the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society. In 1887 William Wilberforce and others began a crusade to end the slave trade in British ships.

Don’t expect fast results. These programs took years, decades, or generations of struggle to win. We forget this by focusing on the moments of triumph and forgetting the years of struggle that produced them. Perhaps on Independence Day we should read the speeches that led to the Declaration. Like this by Thomas Paine, from the first of the 16 “The Crisis” pamphlets (23 December 1776).

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. … What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.

Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first setting off. … I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.

Our times are not Paine’s. Our problems differ from those of 1776. Yet the underlying situation has its similarities. Liberty always has enemies, while citizens have their personal cares and no interest in exertions — let alone risking what they have — for abstractions like liberty and future generations. Rousing people to action is the first and most difficult step to reform. We can learn from the Founders in this, as in so many other things.

A suggestion for the 4th: you can help

When meeting with friends and family today, why not talk about liberty and responsibility (two sides of the self-government coin)? Find other people willing to work to retake the reins of America. Whatever your personal politics, I’m confident that together we know what needs to be done.

Freedom is an emergent property of citizens.

Minutemen marching
Currier & Ives (1876)

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For ideas about what to do next see the posts at Reforming America: steps to new politics. Also see these…

  1. Recommended: Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006.
  2. A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government? — 2008.
  3. What we should Americans do on the 4th of July? — 2010.
  4. Advice from the past about ways to celebrate Independence Day — 2013.
  5. Let’s discuss the future of America while we celebrate Independence Day — 2014.



3 thoughts on “Independence Day Inspiration: make it meaningful!”

  1. Some additional perspective regarding American independence…

    The following is an excerpt from The Founding Fathers Didn’t Drink British Tea, Land Destroyer

    “By boycotting the British system, the Founding Fathers were already free and independent men by the time they signed the Declaration of Independence. The coming war would be to defend that freedom.

    Yes things are bad, but what can we do? Intolerable acts drove colonial men subjected to the sting of tyranny into action over two centuries years ago. Before the great battles of the American Revolution took place and the victory that followed, the Founding Fathers took it upon themselves to declare their independence not only by writ, but also by action. Our Founding Fathers ceased the import of British goods, they created their own monetary system, they assembled their own militias, and most importantly they formed their own government based upon their own values, not King George’s self-interest.

    This truly measurable independence turned out to be the key to their success, for independence is freedom, and freedom from tyranny is victory. The battle they fought was not one to free themselves, instead, it was fought to defend the freedom from the British system they had already achieved.”

    – Happy 4th Fabius! God bless America.

    1. Arguendo,

      That is a great passage; thanks for posting!

      Our task is to translate their example to our quite different circumstances. We are not seeking independence, but to re-gain the reins of government which we have dropped.

      But the first task, then as now, is to arouse the people.

  2. Agreed. As adorable as the arguments for secession are, I find them impractical and secession unnecessary.

    I believe the author of the piece I cited was attempting to highlight the affect of self-sufficiency as a significant aspect of independence. I find myself consistently taken aback by my like-minded friends that lament so about the 1% and then without a second thought patronize them with their dollars. I’m not suggesting that boycott is a solution unto itself, but it is something that nearly everyone (with some consideration) can do as part of their “patriot” kit. And with enough people participating, history has shown that it can be most effective. Not to mention there exists the potential for one to achieve a certain amount of satisfaction by withholding funding from financial machinations of the 1% (as they clearly do love their dollars above all else).

    As a practical matter, towards this effort one can only do what one can do. It’s relatively easy to forgo Tide for a natural laundry detergent and stop eating fake food at corporate chain restaurants. It’s a little more work to source local produce (or grow it yourself). Incrementally more work to reclaim rain water. And even harder to transition from corporate employment to self-employment.

    However it becomes quite difficult not to patronize the 1% when you need to fill your car with gas, use a computer, make a call, or connect to the internet. I don’t think absolutism is necessary. Simply that one trends away from suckling on the corporate tit and towards self-sufficiency wherever feasible as part one’s broader efforts.

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