Tag Archives: Independance day

Real freedom took real courage


By Chris Stirewalt


Political courage these days is generally defined as a politician doing something that might make it harder to get re-elected.


Real civic leadership has always been about convincing people to do what’s right and hard rather than what’s popular and easy. Courage is part of that. People are less likely to follow a leader who asks them to sacrifice and struggle when he or she will not.


But now, that sacrifice generally refers to a politician having to spend more of other peoples’ money on a primary election contest or, in rare cases, moving to a lucrative career in punditry or influence peddling sooner than expected.


The courage of defying voters to give lobbyists and press hounds what they want in exchange for a lobbying job or to join the press pack is not exactly shivering with the troops at Valley Forge. In fact it’s not really courage at all.


On Independence Day, Americans do not celebrate actual independence from Britain, which didn’t formally come until the signing of the Treaty of Paris on Sept. 3, 1783. Nor do we celebrate the start of the revolution that would make us free, which began in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 and lasted for eight years.


What we celebrate is the act of declaring our independence; the ratification and signing of a document that was meaningless without the might of arms to make it so. What we celebrate are the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, that most remarkable piece of political writing in history, and the courage of the politicians who engaged in what was seen by the duly established authorities as treason.


King George III claimed to derive his authority from God and had dominion over the official religion of the land. These rebels were said to defy even Heaven in what they said and wrote in Philadelphia that sweltering summer.


A cottage industry has sprung up around diminishing the sacrifices and nobility of the Founding Fathers. And to be sure, they were flawed men. For those who seek to find the flaws in the American experiment, it is perhaps irresistible to see its founders in a negative light. Perhaps it would just seem impossibly square to extoll their virtues. Cynicism sounds savvier, especially for those who struggle to see the arc of history.


But as you celebrate today, remember the story of Richard Stockton. He was born to a wealthy New Jersey family that helped found what we now know as Princeton University. Stockton had even been given the chance to travel to London to appear before George III to make a presentation to the king from the college’s trustees.


Stockton had struggled to find a way that the 13 colonies could be self-governing but still subject to the crown, the kind of compromise that would later come to Canada and other British possessions. He argued for such a deal and even counseled with leaders including Edmund Burke on crafting such a plan.


Back at home, Stockton was elected to the Second Continental Congress. By 1775, the burden of taxes and punitive laws imposed by the crown convinced him that George III had no intention of granting autonomy. When discussion turned to declaring independence, he was prepared to sign. With his pen strokes, he, a celebrated and elite British subject, became an outlaw and a rebel.


Before the year was out, Stockton would be captured by loyalists, have his estate looted and burned and be turned over to the British army in chains. His family fled and Stockton was thrown in a prison in New York where he was badly mistreated and left in failing health.


Stockton endured his captivity and was eventually released after George Washington protested the abuse. But Stockton’s health never recovered and he would die at home in 1781 without living to see the country he helped found victorious and independent.


So the next time somebody tells you that politicians today lack courage because they refuse to defy the will of their constituents to please lobbyists and pundits, remember Richard Stockton and what real political courage looked like. It wasn’t about K Street expense-account dinners and celebrity status. It was about sacrificing everything for the sake of an idea.


A very happy Independence Day to you and yours from the Fox News First team and the whole family here at the Fox News Washington Bureau.


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Declaration of Independence approved July 4, 1776


Declaration of Independence


American Minute with Bill Federer


The Declaration of Independence was approved JULY 4, 1776.


It listed abuses of King George III, age 38, such as:


“He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone…


He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.


He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies…


To subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution…


For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…


For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:


For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury…


For…establishing…an Arbitrary government…


For…altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments…


He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.


He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny…


He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions…”


33-year-old Thomas Jefferson’s original rough draft of the Declaration contained a line condemning slavery:


“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself…in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither…


suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold.”


A few delegates objected, and as the Declaration needed to pass unanimously and time was running short with the British invading New York, the line condemning slavery was unfortunately omitted.


John Hancock, the 39-year-old President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration first, reportedly saying “the price on my head has just doubled.”


Next to sign was Secretary, Charles Thomson, age 47.


70-year-old Benjamin Franklin said:


“We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.


The Declaration referred to God:


“Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…


All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…


Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions…”


“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.”


Many of the 56 signers sacrificed their prosperity for their posterity.


Of the Signers:


17 served in the military,

11 had their homes destroyed;

5 were hunted and captured; and

9 died during the war.


27-year-old George Walton signed, and at the Battle of Savannah was wounded and captured.


Signers Edward Rutledge, age 27, Thomas Heyward, Jr., age 30, and Arthur Middleton, age 34, were made prisoners at the Siege of Charleston.


38-year-old signer Thomas Nelson had his home used as British headquarters during the siege of Yorktown. Nelson reportedly offered five guineas to the first man to hit his house.


Signer Carter Braxton, age 40, lost his fortune during the war.


42-year-old signer Thomas McKean wrote that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three month.”


46-year-old Richard Stockton signed and was dragged from his bed at night and jailed.


50-year-old signer Lewis Morris had his home taken and used as a barracks.


50-year-old signer Abraham Clark had two sons tortured and imprisoned on the British starving ship Jersey.


More Americans died on British starving ships than died in battle during the Revolution.


53-year-old signer John Witherspoon’s son, James, was killed in the Battle of Germantown.


60-year-old signer Philip Livingston lost several properties to British occupation and died before the war ended.


63-year-old signer Francis Lewis had his wife imprisoned and treated so harshly, she died shortly after her release.


65-year-old signer John Hart had his home looted and had to remain in hiding, dying before the war ended.


41-year-old John Adams wrote of the Declaration:


“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival.


It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.


It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”


John Adams continued:


“You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not.


I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.


Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.


And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”


When 54-year-old Samuel Adams signed the Declaration, he said:


“We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”


Bill FedererThe Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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