Looks like I wasn’t the only one waving the American flag this weekend.
Happy Independence Day!
On this day 245 years ago, America was founded.
Newer generations may not understand that the point of today is how thirteen British colonies declared independence from the oppressive and tyrannical British Crown, and established a nation of the NEW WORLD. In other words, before America was established, this land belonged to the British Empire, ruled by a king. OLD WORLD Britain saw humans as, ‘once a subject always a subject.’
We live in complicated times where opinions and movements are not necessarily rooted in historical reality. Fortunately, here in America, we have an incredibly well documented history of who and what this nation really is about.
On this day in 1776, The Declaration of Independence was ratified. If you know your world history from Greece and Rome, through the Europe enlightenment (OLD WORLD), you know the Declaration of Independence is the greatest document ever written, up to this point in history. The Declaration is both an American document, and a document of the NEW WORLD.
Thomas Jefferson (Founding Father, Third President) is credited with writing most of the Declaration. Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment era, and known as “the great fighter against slavery in the emerging Republic (Hansen).”
In this era we all find ourselves in where Critical Race Theory (CRT) is in the headlines, this writer will challenge the lack of logic behind CRT that America was founded as a racist nation. Since the nation is openly having a debate on slavery and racism, and the founding of America, here’s the truth.
America was initially founded by 56 men (signers of the Declaration). Many of America’s founders hated and despised slavery, and the slave-holding aristocracy that this land inherited from the British. Thomas Jefferson wanted to include a 168-word statement that condemned slavery in the Declaration of Independence, but this was rejected, as the politics of that day was not yet ready to take down the slave aristocracy.
So why did it take 89 years after the founding of the United States to abolish slavery, and why couldn’t it have been done on July 4, 1776?
To answer both questions, I argue, you have to be well read, and a realist. The slave-holding aristocracy was deeply calcified in the original thirteen colonies. In the Declaration, the line ‘All men are created equal’ by Thomas Jefferson is the greatest single one liner (non Biblical) in world history. This is not some new statement I am offering up in 2021. This is World History 101.
On July 4, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was first ratified, it was hugely influential in beginning to end slavery in the Northern states. This fact is left out in CRT discussions, but while it took a four year bloody Civil War, and until December 1865 to abolish slavery in the Southern states of America, Northern states began moving to abolish slavery beginning in 1777. You can Google this.
The first American Flag debuted in Pennsylvania in 1777. By 1780, Pennsylvania was moving to abolish slavery. By the early to mid 1800s, most Northern stores had outlawed slavery (see New Hampshire’s unique story). The American Flag is a movement of the Northern States. The South did not move to end slavery. This sets up the Civil War (North vs. South).
If you want to learn more about America, and who and what this nation really is about, I recommend reading three things today:
1. Declaration of Independence. Have your kids, and grandkids read it. It is America’s founding document. For two centuries, this nation was raised on the Declaration of Independence, George Washington, and the enlightened wisdom of the Founding Fathers. America’s founders weren’t perfect, but in context of thousands of years of world history, Americanism was founded as the highest level of human freedoms the world had ever known.
2. Read Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July’. In the mid 1800s, Rochester, NY was the intellectual battlefield for both the abolition of slavery, and women’s rights. On July 5, 1852, Frederick Douglass delivers one of America’s most important speeches on here in Rochester. In his speech, Douglass is rightfully angry at the failure of the nation to live up to it’s founding ideals, but deeply respects and honors the American system of Government.
3. I recommend reading John F. Kennedy’s Independence Day speech from July 4, 1946, where Kennedy (highly intelligent and well educated in American tradition) lays out what it means to be a traditional American. Back in the first half of the 20th Century, Americans were raised to deeply believe in American ideals, and Kennedy articulates this. As Kennedy says:
“The characteristics of the American people have ever been:
– A deep sense of religion
– A deep sense of idealism
– A deep sense of patriotism
– A deep sense of individualism.”
Let me close with this. America has a complicated, and glorious past, filled with centuries of justice, and injustice. No argument there. The American Revolution wasn’t fought over slavery like the Civil War was, but for many of the men fighting in the American Revolution, the abolition of slavery couldn’t happen soon enough. In those days, change and events took time to play out. Sometimes very slowly. But July 4, 1776 was a monumental, earth-shaking day that divided the OLD WORLD from the NEW WORLD.
Again. Happy Independence Day. The formal name of today’s holiday is INDEPENDENCE DAY. The date of July 4 is hugely significant.
When your hometown supermarket features wholesome all-American patriotism.
Next Sunday is Independence Day.
July 4th is a huge and significant date in American history, but Independence Day is the official name of America’s most important holiday.
245 years later, America still has a huge national celebration with picnics, parades, festivities, and 16,000 fireworks displays (in a non COVID year) on July 4, but less and less Americans even know what Independence Day is about these days.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress declared America a free nation, no longer under the authority of the tyrannical and oppressive British Crown.
America’s founding document, The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, published as an earth-shattering statement, declaring America’s independence, and essentially establishing the ‘New World’, breaking away from the colonialist ‘Old World’.
One line in the Declaration, ‘All men are created equal’ (credited to Thomas Jefferson) is considered the greatest single one liner (non Biblical) in world history, and a line so powerful, it accelerated the movement to outlaw slavery in the Northern states. When America was founded in 1776, there was already a deeply calcified slave-holding aristocracy that had existed for over 150 years; inherited from the British Empire, and colonialist Europe.
Over thousands of years of world history, I’d argue the Declaration of Independence is easily on the top 10 list of major, well documented historical events, not just because it establishes America, and all this nation would become, but the beginning of the New World is monumental in so many ways.
World History 101
1. Asia and Africa
4. Age of Christianity
5. Italian Renaissance (Columbus discovers the Americas)
6. Age of Enlightenment in Europe
7. Declaration of Independence
8. Rise of America
9. The 20th Century
10. Age of Twitter
Soon I’ll write about why I included Twitter on the list of the 10 biggest world history events.
But for now, as we head into Independence Day weekend, more core DNA American history to come.
Memorial Day reminds us what it means to be an American, as the nation pauses to pay deep tribute to America’s Fallen who paid the Ultimate Sacrifice to secure freedom, maintain our nation’s way of life, and ensure future generations would know what freedom is.
- First/Second Amendment
- Abolish Slavery (Civil War)
- Fight Socialism (World War l)
- Defeat Nazism (World War ll)
- Fight Communism (Vietnam/Korea)
If folks don’t understand what freedom is, or what it means to be an American, you can’t much appreciate American freedom.
This Memorial Day weekend, a crash course on American freedom begins with the First Amendment.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a State has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch.
Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men’s minds.”
-Justice Thurgood Marshall, Stanley v. Georgia (1969)
Wegmans gets it.
“Gettysburg was fought to insure that self-government might not disappear from the earth” -Dwight D. Eisenhower
Memorial Day was born of the Civil War.
While Veteran’s Day is a day to celebrate the service of all of America’s military veterans, Memorial Day (originally known as Decoration Day) is about honoring and remembering America’s patriotic dead. Those who have served, fought and died for America, in all wars since the Civil War (1861-1865).
In May 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a Proclamation declaring Waterloo, NY the birthplace of Memorial Day. Memorial Day would become a Federal Holiday in 1971.
So what is the main principle America’s patriots have fought and died for?
On November 19, 1963, post Presidency, now a resident of Gettysburg, PA, Dwight D. Eisenhower gave a speech honoring the Centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Not many know this, but President John F. Kennedy was asked to give the 100 year Centennial speech at Gettysburg. JFK declined. He had to travel to Dallas, as history had other plans. So Eisenhower stepped in.
Eisenhower’s credentials and legacy are monumental in American history. Not only did Eisenhower lead the D-Day invasion in 1944 during World War ll, but would later become President of the United States. Born in America’s heartland, Eisenhower had a deep understanding of America, American history, and American values.
In a short address on November 19, 1963, Eisenhower spoke of Abraham Lincoln’s famous speech a hundred years earlier, where he said of Lincoln, who “foresaw a new birth of freedom, a freedom and equality for all which, under God, would restore the purpose and meaning of America”.
Here’s President Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’ — November 19, 1863
“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 can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not 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.”
The purpose of this post is not to suggest Waterloo’s Memorial Day (1866) and the Gettysburg Address (1863) are connected, because I don’t believe they purposely are. But the true meaning of Memorial Day is, as Eisenhower best sums this up his tribute to Lincoln.
And that’s what (on paper) America’s patriots (fallen) have served, fought and died for.
On Memorial Day weekend as the nation pauses to to pay tribute, the tone is celebratory, respectful, patriotic, and educational (Veterans telling war stories) until Memorial Day, which is a solemn day for our nation.
Happy Memorial Day!