"What July Fourth Means to Me" --Ronald Reagan (1981)
Somewhere in our [youth], we began to be aware of the meaning of [important national] days and with that awareness came the birth of patriotism. July Fourth is the birthday of our nation. I believed as a boy, and believe even more today, that it is the birthday of the greatest nation on earth.
The day of our nation's birth in that little hall in Philadelphia, [was] a day on which debate had raged for hours. The men gathered there were honorable men hard-pressed by a king who had flouted the very laws they were willing to obey. Even so, to sign the Declaration of Independence was such an irretrievable act that the walls resounded with the words "treason, the gallows, the headsman's axe," and the issue remained in doubt.
[On that day] 56 men, a little band so unique we have never seen their like since, had pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. Some gave their lives in the war that followed, most gave their fortunes, and all preserved their sacred honor.
What manner of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants and tradesmen, and nine were farmers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education; they were not an unwashed rabble. They had achieved security but valued freedom more. Their stories have not been told nearly enough.
John Hart was driven from the side of his desperately ill wife. For more than a year he lived in the forest and in caves before he returned to find his wife dead, his children vanished, his property destroyed. He died of exhaustion and a broken heart.
Carter Braxton of Virginia lost all his ships, sold his home to pay his debts, and died in rags. And so it was with Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Rutledge, Morris, Livingston and Middleton. Nelson personally urged Washington to fire on his home and destroy it when it became the headquarters for General Cornwallis. Nelson died bankrupt.
But they sired a nation that grew from sea to shining sea. Five million farms, quiet villages, cities that never sleep, three million square miles of forest, field, mountain and desert, 227 million people with a pedigree that includes the bloodlines of all the world. In recent years, however, I've come to think of that day as more than just the birthday of a nation.
It also commemorates the only true philosophical revolution in all history.
Oh, there have been revolutions before and since ours. But those revolutions simply exchanged one set of rules for another. Ours was a revolution that changed the very concept of government.
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.
We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should."
Ronald Reagan's thoughts on the Fourth of July are from the Federalist Patriot No. 05-26, dated 30 June 2005. The Federalist Patriot is really a superb conservative thought publication. Big Bubba's Big Recommendation is that you follow the links to get your own free subscription via e-mail. I also love these three other quotes that are in this edition,
"Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!" --George Washington (1779)
"We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient." --Samuel Adams, reflecting on the original Independence Day
"One of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one's house. A man's house is his castle." --James Otis (1761)
John Winthrop, aboard the ship Arabella lying off the shore of Massachusetts, wrote in 1630: "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God's sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going. ... Therefore let us choose life, that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity." (Ronald Reagan often cited Winthrop's image of a "city upon a hill" as inspiration for his revival of fidelity to our Founding beliefs 350 years later.)