From the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
Yet, their work did not end with mere academic treatises nor simply a few short essays. Instead, people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Paul Revere and many other noble revolutionaries took action. The early Americans refused to allow continued abuse and they fought back when the British rejected their claim to freedom. This certainly wasn't a rash and flippant course of action, but a very deliberate course of action. Many early Americans were unconvinced that war was really what was called for. Most were quite reticent to fight against their former countrymen. Yet, the impassioned speeches of those who fought for the "holy cause of liberty" helped to sway those who felt doubtful. Patrick Henry is best known for the speech he gave at the Second Virgnia Convention in 1775. Here are some short excerpts from his compelling oratory:
And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free — if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending — if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained — we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!
If we are wise, we will take heed to history and learn from it, that we avoid the mistakes of the past and recognize the natural end of various courses of action and sorts of ideologies. This holiday weekend I will celebrate the liberties we still have, as Americans, and spend some time contemplating the elements necessary for individual freedom. Here are a few quotes from our Founding Fathers:
Samuel Adams: "All might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they should."
John Adams: "Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people."
Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Patrick Henry: "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."
Thomas Jefferson: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
James Madison: "Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it."
Thomas Paine: "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated."
William Penn: "Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants."
Benjamin Rush: "Freedom can exist only in the society of knowledge. Without learning, men are incapable of knowing their rights"
George Washington: "Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. "
John Witherspoon: "He is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who set himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country."