December 11, 2019

American Independence Day 2019

Declaration of Independence. Trumbull

American Independence Day 2019

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln gave “remarks” at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where a savage, decisive battle had been fought in the American Civil War. Those “remarks” have endured as a timeless statement of the American project — to establish and maintain a “nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Lincoln grounds his understanding of our country’s principles most fundamentally, not in the Constitution, but in the Declaration of Independence, the signing of which we commemorate on this annual holiday. The Declaration encapsulates the American dream which the Constitution was designed (imperfectly) to administrate.

The southern states also based their decisions to secede on the Declaration of Independence. South Carolina’s declaration (Dec. 24, 1860), for example, directly appealed to the founding document’s first paragraph:

“They further solemnly declared that whenever any ‘form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.’ Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies ‘are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.'”

…Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted.

The South was declaring a second American Revolution. Claiming that the Federal government had repeatedly violated its own constitution and that the northern states had banded together to elect President Lincoln, a person openly hostile to slavery and thus incapable of leading a common government for all the states, they stated their intention to secede rather than endure what they deemed to be a lesser status than the North. They saw themselves firmly in the tradition of the founding generation.

The Civil War was essentially a battle over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The meaning of America.

For Abraham Lincoln, the emphasis lay in what he saw to be a more fundamental principle set down in the document. The president put his finger on “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.” And the next phrase: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

A government of the people, by the people, for the people – to secure the rights of all people.

Lincoln’s great concern was that the American project would fail and “perish from the earth.” He had been elected by the people. He and other governmental officials were not sovereign rulers but democratically elected public servants chosen by the governed to represent them. Their job was to maintain and strengthen a Union designed to exist in perpetuity for the common good through an ongoing “perfecting” process. In his first inaugural Lincoln said:

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And finally, in 1787, one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect Union.”

The original American Revolution had been waged against the tyranny of a king and a sovereign government established, it was claimed, by divine decree. However, if the southern states should be allowed to revolt against and secede from a government formed by the people’s choice, they would not be taking the path of legitimate revolution (against despotism and tyranny) as outlined in the Declaration. Indeed, they would be acting directly against the intentions of the founders. Lincoln profoundly disagreed with the South’s appeal to our founding document.

Abraham Lincoln is one of my most beloved heroes. His more than any other voice has shaped my American identity. I profoundly lament the horrific tragedy of the Civil War. And I mourn that in many ways, that war is still being fought in thousands of more subtle battlefields across our land every day. I deeply disagree with my fellow citizens who continue to sow partisan division and refuse to extend equal rights, opportunities, and protections to all Americans. And though Lincoln’s Second Inaugural contains the words of his that I love most, it all ultimately comes back to the Gettysburg Address and its insistence on the fundamental principles in the Declaration of Independence.

Which we celebrate today.

And which we are still learning (far too slowly) to incorporate into our national life.

 

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 dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field 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.

Comments

  1. Christiane says

    Col Joshua Chamberlain at the Battle of Gettysburg,
    ‘we are an army out to set other men free’

    https://youtu.be/uTZSwgnWtuA

    • Christiane says

      Today, July 4, 2019,
      Tanks will be in the streets today, national guard in triple force:
      but instead of American families with their children, will the Proud Boys arrive in their black shirts, and will their opposition gather ?

      But still, over all this panoramic scene,
      gazing sightlessly outward across the mall, sits a great marble figure of the President who once said:
      ‘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’.

      “government of the people, by the people, for the people” sure sounds like DEMOCRACY to me
      but presently a battle has been engaged against ‘democracy’ in our land,
      and vigilance is once more asked of us all

      • If there’s a Tiananmen Square type of incident this will be a memorable 4th.

        Stay hydrated, everyone, and God bless America.

        • Christiane says

          Hello TED,
          have a great Fourth

          I was on the Mall in D.C. during the Fourth of July 1970 ‘Honor America Day’ and I remember the tom-toms beating, the firing of tear gas into the crowds, who began to panic and run . . . . we were with children and had to leave the monument grounds quickly . . . you don’t forget something like that, no.
          49 years ago today

          here’s a link about what happened:
          https://timeline.com/honor-america-day-1970-74931625e339

      • The tanks will be on huge trailers, with no ammo. I do not fear for violence today.

        Next election? Now, that’s another story.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Though ever since I heard the plans, I’ve been calling this one “Trump Adoration Day”.

          And the tank parade didn’t go over that well with my local talk station Tuesday afternoon. Their comment was “Banana Republic Dictator shtick” or “Red Square on May Day”.

          Talked to Eagle today and asked whether his blog’s regular troll (“I give Donald Trump Praise and Adoration”) was making pilgrimage to DC this year. Eagle got out of town and is currently in a packed, wild, and crazy Virginia Beach (scalpers charging $80 a parking spot and a drug dealer bashing on his car trying to make a sale when he stopped to check his GPS directions).

          P.S. On vacation myself. Entering this fom the AnthroCon internet room in Pittsburgh. Will be seeing Eagle ftf in about a week.

  2. “(The South) saw themselves firmly in the tradition of the founding generation. The Civil War was essentially a battle over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. The meaning of America.”

    Since we’re quoting Lincoln here today, I’ll tack on another that gets right to the core of the argument…

    “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”

  3. Susan Dumbrell says

    I know this will not sit well with 90% of Imonkers, but as an antipodean IMonker, just what is the fuss about on 4th July..
    We were under British rule, passes, gone, now just a figurehead. No responsibility just a figurehead.

    Love the news photos and the grand kids.

    We rule ourselves.

    Just laid back Aussies. We do fine. Just take a look at yourselves. Your inability to show peace both within your country and internationally is staggering.

    We in Aust have jumped when ever we have been asked over many years to the USA request for military aid and soldiers, Oh, You didn’t know that??

    Our blood was shed at your request.
    Who came late into WW2 ? Pearl Harbour brought you in.
    Not us, We were there from the word go, years before.

    Don’t claim all the kudos.
    We were there before you, ours were valiant soldiers.
    Our War Memorials show there bravery

    Will we be seen as allies in Trump’s parade tomorrow, you would have to be f……….joking.
    I doubt he has ever heard of anything contributing to world peace that didn’t come out of his coffers.

    Why on earth does Trump want a military parade and fireworks illuminating his name on the sky.
    Tanks turning up the tarmac are a joke.

    Spend the money feeding the children and refugees. Trump, stop behaving like an idiot. All the world knows that is what you are.

    Feed the children. Let the refugees pass by to freedom. Feed the children.

    Susan

    • Susan, according to Lincoln, “all the fuss” was about a bold experiment in the human history of governance: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to secure the rights of all people.

      We have lived it oh so imperfectly. But on July 4th we celebrate the ideal.

      • On holiday now in British Columbia. Took in a lovely Canada Day, now here over July 4th. Attitudes towards multicultural inclusivity and tolerance could not be more different than Houston. Can’t say I’m missing the 4th festivities with this year’s political angsf either.

    • Patriciamc says

      Okay, I’m willing to be the bad guy.

      Susan, people tend to give you a pass because of your husband, but your multi-insult post, and on our biggest national holiday, is ill-advised and does not present you in a good light – and you do like to complain when we discuss things you don’t like. Insults are never the way to get people to agree with your viewpoint.

      No. the US is not perfect, and we don’t claim to be perfect, but we started the trend of asserting rights for the people. Many or most of us are aware that Australia is, as one prime minister said, one of the US’s greatest friends. Also, England never militarily resisted a colony’s seeking independence after the US’s sacrifice.

      To everyone else, have a happy, safe, and dry 4th!

      • Patricia, you got way too personal there.

      • “England never militarily resisted a colony’s seeking independence after the US’s sacrifice.”

        Actually, they did. The Boer and May Mau wars in Africa were fought against locals seeking independence.

    • Susan! What a way to insult your host! I am an antipodean Imonker as well. I think it’s important to remember that the founding of the USA was a grand experiment never before tried. That is has worked, although imperfectly is a credit to the ideals of the founding fathers. Australia has evolved since the First Fleet arrived, our Federation takes some of the ideas from the American experiment, and although we’ve never had an official civil war, our indigenous brothers and sisters would have a different view, given the effects of colonisation. We are not a flag waving people, but others are, particularly our Yank mates -:). Let them celebrate, they have much to be proud of, and yes they are aware of their failings, mostly. As a middle power in the vast Asia/Pacific area I am grateful to call America an ally.

    • I’m an American, but born and raised overseas. I’m not particularly patriotic. I think America has a lot of admirable qualities as a nation, and more than a few problems. I don’t think we’re the greatest, etc. I don’t fly the flag. My allegiance isn’t to any nation. Wrong kingdom and all that.

      But I understand something of the desire for independence centuries ago. England was an empire at that time and for the next 150 years or so as well, and behaved badly in a lot of ways (its rule of India, among others, had some pretty dismal chapters).

      Having said that, I also think America is being represented disgracefully in the extreme by Trump and his cronies and supporters. The display of the worst impulses and actions of which Americans are capable is on display almost daily. If anything, this has made me even less enamored of our nation. The next election brings with it a chance to right the course, and I fear for this country and for a lot of innocent people if that opportunity isn’t realized.

    • Robert F says

      The belief in American exceptionalism is a deep-seated national superstition here, Susan…

  4. “I know this will not sit well with 90% of Imonkers, but as an antipodean IMonker, just what is the fuss about on 4th July..
    We were under British rule, passes, gone, now just a figurehead. No responsibility just a figurehead.”

    Patience was never an American virtue. :-/

  5. senecagriggs says

    We had a month of “Gay Pride”, now we have 24 hrs honoring our hard won independence.

    Two tanks on trailers? Unarmed?

    Not exactly saber rattling.

    • seneca no one begrudges you a month to celebrate Gay pride but i agree with you that one day seems inadequate to appreciate our liberty.

  6. Tanks on trailers? Flyovers? On the 4th of July, on the Mall in DC? VIP stands for campaign donors? Not saber-rattling, just a demonstration of the pathetic insecurities, deficiencies, and misunderstanding of the meaning of the holiday by the present head of our government. Such things no more display what the American people celebrate on the 4th of July than the actions of our government toward asylum-seekers. This is not who we are, and it must not be allowed to become who we are. Our system of government has made it difficult to remove a wholly bad executive branch, but it will be done. It must be.

    • senecagriggs says

      You’ve never seen a 4th of July flyover? They’ve been ubiquitous for decades.

      • Rick Ro. says

        I’ve seen flyovers at baseball games. Yeah, it’s a bunch of “Meh.”

        At least, I hope so…LOL…

      • Once in a while, near a military base, or as a special show–but not in or near DC, where I live. Protected air space.

        • And they’re shutting down Reagan National Airport for it. Totally disruptive.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Yeah, he does seem to be doing it mainly as a show of “Because I’m in charge and because I can…and to hell with what anyone else thinks.” Certainly fits with his narcissistic, I-have-power personality.

          • Robert F says

            Wish he’d spent the money improving the horrendous condition of the asylum seeker detainees. The latest pictures released by the feds of the detainees make me ashamed to be American…

    • And I dreamed I saw the bombers
      Riding shotgun in the sky
      And they were turning into butterflies
      Above our nation

      —Joni Mitchell

  7. Patriciamc says

    Yes, we’re in a struggle right now to live up to our ideals (and no, this does not mean open borders or a freefall paying for all illegals), but at least we do have the ideals that the Founding Fathers started – that and the sequel, the Civil Rights movement. So, happy 4th, ya’ll. Wave the flag and say it loud: God Bless America!

    • “My country, right or wrong. If right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.” — Carl Schurz, 1872

      Let’s get to work on that “to be set right” part, shall we?

  8. senecagriggs says

    Navy Blue Angels did the fly-over.

  9. anonymous says

    That flag? It covered the bodies of our honored dead before they were buried. It’s not a symbol for Trumpism to me, no. He may try to turn it into a point of division, but it really does stand for the rights of men to kneel in protest on a football field. The trumpists can’t co-opt the flag, no. It represents something that despises fascism and when our country is no longer in peril from the ‘demagogue’, there will be much celebration by those who have buried their dead after the coffins were draped by that honored symbol.

    no ‘heil-ing’ in this country, hell no

  10. senecagriggs says

    “That flag? It covered the bodies of our honored dead before they were buried. It’s not a symbol for Trumpism to me, no. He may try to turn it into a point of division,”
    __________

    I think Kapernick and Nike decided to turn the flag into a point of division actually.