Thursday, July 4, 2013

An American Experiment in Liberty

One hundred and fifty years ago yesterday, the Battle of Gettysburg was concluded during the American Civil War in what was the bloodiest battle in the history of our nation.  That battle – that war – was fought to right the wrongs of a nation that was ostensibly conceived in liberty.  It was fought to free men and women from the vile and retched shackles of slavery.
America was still a nation in its infancy at the time of the Civil War; not even one hundred years old yet.  That war came remarkably close to destroying our American nation, and the Battle of Gettysburg was arguably the turning point of that bloodiest of all American wars.  Up until that point, the Confederacy had won many major battles, and General Robert E. Lee had  hoped to push his campaign into the north with his Army of Virginia in order to break the back and spirit of Lincoln and the union army. 
While many historians give General Lee’s Corp Commander, General James Longstreet, the blame for the South’s defeat at Gettysburg, it is mine and many other’s opinion that had Lee retreated to better ground and not attacked the north in its fortified positions, they might very well have gone on to win the war.  Instead the stars and stripes carried those three days of battle on July 1st to July 3rd in 1863.  It was the turning point of the war and our nation was ultimately saved accordingly. 
Throughout the history of nations, America was a wholly different kind of proposition.  It was exceptional as a nation even from the first days of its very founding.  It was precisely exceptional because of three main principles.   
The first principle, as stated in our founding document as a nation in The Declaration of Independence, stated that “ALL men are created equal”.  One’s status was not determined by who one’s father or family heritage was, but rather by one’s own ambitions.  There was no hereditary status or class distinction of locked castes in American society.  A person was judged on his own merits alone.  Now there were indeed two atavistic contradictions to this ideal: slavery and the position of women.  These intolerable contradictions were eventually resolved though, the former through our horrible Civil War. 
The second principle was that in all other nations at that time, citizenship was a matter established by blood, lineage, or one’s birth.  Foreigners to those other nations could never be admitted as full members of their societies.  America though was different.  To become an American one only needed to pledge allegiance to our free republic and the principles of liberty enshrined in its founding.  Indeed, our Statue of Liberty sits as a beacon to the tired, poor and wretched refuse of other nations to come to America and reach for the highest of their stars, restricted only by their own abilities and ambitions.
Lastly, in other nations of the day, one’s rights (if any) were always conferred by human agencies.  It was within a monarch’s or sometimes a parliament’s power to bestow privileges and rights upon its citizens as they saw fit.  As such, these man-given rights could also be revoked.  In America, again as stated in our Declaration of Independence, all men are created equal and endowed by God with unalienable rights.  As such, man was incapable of revoking these rights that we had acknowledged as being intrinsically bestowed by our Creator. 
A nation so conceived was a great threat to the monarchies of Europe.  The idea of self-rule via representatives of government being guided via the consent of the governed, by We The People, was an anathema to those other nations and their hold on power.
And yet, against all odds and indeed seemingly by Divine Providence, America overcame the greatest army and navy in its day and defeated the mighty British empire and King George III.  In doing so, we moved forward and the liberties God had given us and the fruits of our labors we achieved by our own talents, ambitions, and sweat of our brows brought this nation of rugged individualists to become the greatest force for economic, military, and libertine power that the world has ever seen before or since.
Those freedoms, whose job it is for government to protect only, ensured that today, a nation that makes up 4.5% of the world’s population is responsible for 22% of the world’s output.  Indeed, history changing inventions from medicine and pharmaceuticals, to phones and communication, to air and space flight have literally transformed life upon this planet all because of Americans.
And now, today in 2013, those God-given freedoms and rights as enshrined in our glorious United States Constitution, are under attack.  This attack doesn’t come from some foreign foe.  No, those waning liberties are being infringed upon from within the confines of our own governmental structures and institutions.  No longer today do we seek to exercise our freedoms in pursuit of our own happiness.  Instead we look to government to provide for us and care for us, even at the expense of our own God-given liberties, indeed even by the right to worship God as we choose. 
In July of 1863 the very fabric of our nation was being torn asunder and our experiment in self-government’s very existence likely hinged on the fateful decisions of a few generals on a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 
Today our very existence as the land of the free and the home of the brave hinge upon our remembering our nation’s history, it’s principles, and the source of our liberty; not only remembering but insisting that we will fight to keep those rights.  If we as a people decide to let our government dictate to us how we are to be governed instead of telling them how they will govern us, then we will have done what no outside enemy ever could.  We will have destroyed the United States of America. 
I, for one, am immensely proud of my nation, its founders, and those principles upon which it was founded.  I fully intend, just as the founders did, to pledge my life, fortune, and sacred honor to do everything of which I am capable to ensure this nation does not perish from this earth.  Happy Independence Day, my friends! 

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
~ Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America, and Commander in Chief of the Union Army during the American Civil War


Jerry Critter said...

You seem to forget that we are the government. We, not some abstract creation, are making government decisions. The government does what we, collectively, want it to do. And we, collectively, can change it. That's the beauty.

T. Paine said...

Jerry, you are absolutely correct that WE are the government. That was my point. "We" no longer care about liberty and our God-given rights. We are too damned concerned with what government can do for us instead of taking care of ourselves. We have made government our master, instead of mastering over government.

We can change it, but not with the woefull lack of knowledge that most of our citizens display today. They would rather be "cared for" even at the expense of their freedoms.

"Those that would give up essetial liberties for temporary safety are deserving of neither." ~ Ben Franklin

Jerry Critter said...

And then on the other hand, perhaps the government is doing exactly what we (the government as you acknowledge) want it to do. The problem is that you (the individual) want the rest of us (the government) to do what you want. That's tyranny not democracy.

T. Paine said...

Oh, I agree that the government is doing what the majority of Americans want it to do. They want it to do those things out of ignorance or folly. They don’t realize the ultimate ramifications of giving up their rights to government in order to fulfill their “desires”. NOTHING good has ever come by doing so. I don’t want to force people to change their minds and to understand the importance of our founding principles and Constitution. I want to educate them so that we might return to a nation more rooted in liberty. It is the progressives that have “fundamentally transformed America” so that our history and our civics knowledge has been erased. It is far easier to control and gain tighter control on ones citizens if they don’t realize what they are doing in giving up their liberties. The government functionaries aren’t the problem; they are a symptom of We The People. And We The People have created the foundations of tyranny be emboldening them. It is not I that is supporting tyranny, but all of the low information voters and politically progressive ideologues that support this freedom-usurping form of governance that are advocating tyranny. They just don’t realize it – yet.