Independence Day thoughtsJuly 4, 2012
As we celebrate America’s Independence Day, I am reminded of something Ronald Reagan said several decades ago. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from becoming extinct. Freedom is not passed down from one generation to the next through the blood stream. Freedom must be fought for and defended by each generation, otherwise you will be setting on your front porch in your old age, telling your children and your grand children what it was like to live in America, when men were free.”
When our Founding Fathers pledged their “lives, their fortune and their sacred honor” they meant it. They were willing to give up the illusion of security under the British crown for the messy, demanding and costly process of becoming free. They committed an act of treason, punishable by death, by signing the Declaration of Independence. They spent time away from their homes and their families because of their love of liberty and their whole-hearted commitment to this nation. Benjamin Franklin missed his daughter’s wedding and to his great sorrow, the death and funeral of his wife because of his commitments internationally. Abigail Adams gave birth to a stillborn daughter while her husband was away in Philadelphia. Thomas Jefferson lost a 2 year-old daughter to whooping cough. It took 7 months for word to reach him in France
Seventeen of the 56 signers actually fought in the American Revolution. Five were captured by the British and one of those, Richard Stockton, never recovered from his incarceration. He died in 1781. Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote in a letter that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy – compelled to remove my family five times in a few months…” Carter Braxton, from Virginia, was a wealthy plantation owner. He loaned 10,000 pounds to support the Revolutionary War that was never repaid and his support of the shipping industry servicing the fledgling nation led to personal debt. He died a poor man at age 61. Lyman Hall saw his Georgia estate burned to the ground. John Hart, a farmer from New Jersey, served in the New Jersey Assembly, including time as its Speaker. His farm, livestock, grist mills and property were destroyed by Hessian mercenaries. His wife, having fallen ill during those difficult times, died on October 8, 1776 with her husband by her side. He then spent the winter hiding in the forest and sleeping in caves. Two years later, he invited General Washington’s army to make camp on his farm. Twelve thousand men camped on his fields during peak growing time. A few months later, John Hart died at age 66. There are numerous other examples, including many men and women whose names never became well-known, but who sacrificed for the cause of freedom.
Today, the battle for freedom looks different than it did in 1776. It is, however, just as important for our children and grandchildren. We cannot afford to sit idly by – the stakes are too high. Thomas Jefferson said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Thank you to all of you who have engaged in this fight. See you on the battlefield!