July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday, America

During the last week or so, my wife and I saw the first half of the HBO mini-series John Adams on DVD, which so far is excellent and highly recommended. Watching our original thirteen colonies declare and then fight for independence is electrifying. We Americans are accustomed to revolution and war taking place inside other countries, not inside our own. But of course it wasn’t always this way. We were born in revolution and war. Revolutions, as most of us have learned since, often devour their children. Reigns of terror and regimes even more grotesque than the last often follow. Other times revolutions are aborted or smashed under jackboots and tank treads. Ours could have turned out very differently than it did.

It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually read the Declaration of Independence since high school. So I read it again today, shortly after midnight on Independence Day. If, like me, you hadn’t read it for a while (if ever), today, exactly 232 years later, might be a good day to do it again.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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 of 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 shewn 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. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 4, 2008 12:34 AM
Comments

I can think of only two Revolutions that ended well: Ours and Switzerland’s. I would welcome more examples, but I am afraid that few successful countries have risen out of revolution without years of turmoil and misery.

Secular Turkey was more a creation out a power vacuum, although it has been comparatively successful
France was consumed in the Terror although they are (more or less) on an even footing now.
So was Russia’s (consumed in the Terror) although their revolution has still not played out to a successful conclusion.
The Bolivarian revolution in Latin America is still roiling.
Cuba’s is still stuck on totalitarianism.
China’s is collapsing under the weight of corruption (and the fact that Communism just does not work.)
Vietnam is following after China and has years to go. (Finally after all of these years we are winning in Vietnam. I believe that in the end Vietnam will be a capitalist democracy-our goal when John Kennedy engaged in the war there and promised the world:

"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
Friday, January 20, 1961

I can’t think of a single sub-Saharan country that functioned as a country from the start after their revolutions. Zimbabwe continues to spiral into the abyss and now South Africa seems to starting on the same road as Zimbabwe (Taking land from productive farmers (who happen to be white) and giving that land to political cronies (who happen to be black and also are not farmers).

I marvel at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to put together a country that could rise successfully out of a revolution. The only serious error was their failure to deal with slavery. They thought that it would wither away but we had to have a civil war to complete the revolution.

Michael, thank you for reminding us of our incredible good fortune.

God Bless Texas and
God Bless the USA!

Posted by: Steamboat Jack Author Profile Page at July 4, 2008 10:44 AM

I can think of only two Revolutions that ended well: Ours and Switzerland’s. I would welcome more examples, but I am afraid that few successful countries have risen out of revolution without years of turmoil and misery.

France was consumed in the Terror although they are (more or less) on an even footing now.
So was Russia’s (consumed in the Terror) although their revolution has still not played out to a successful conclusion.
The Bolivarian revolution in Latin America is still roiling.
Cuba’s is still stuck on totalitarianism.
China’s is collapsing under the weight of corruption (and the fact that Communism just does not work.)
Vietnam is following after China and has years to go. (Finally after all of these years we are winning in Vietnam. I believe that in the end Vietnam will be a capitalist democracy-our goal when John Kennedy engaged in the war there and promised the world:

"We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
Friday, January 20, 1961

I marvel at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to put together a country that could rise successfully out of a revolution. The only serious error was their failure to deal with slavery. They thought that it would wither away but we had to have a civil war to complete the revolution.

Michael, thank you for reminding us of our incredible good fortune.

God Bless Texas and
God Bless the USA!

Posted by: Steamboat Jack Author Profile Page at July 4, 2008 10:47 AM

I can think of only two Revolutions that ended well: Ours and Switzerland’s. I would welcome more examples, but I am afraid that few successful countries have risen out of revolution without years of turmoil and misery.

I marvel at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to put together a country that could rise successfully out of a revolution. The only serious error was their failure to deal with slavery. They thought that it would wither away but we had to have a civil war to complete the revolution.

Michael, thank you for reminding us of our incredible good fortune.

God Bless Texas and
God Bless the USA!

Posted by: Steamboat Jack Author Profile Page at July 4, 2008 10:48 AM

Shortly after France's reign of terror Emperor Napoleon took over, so that wasnt exactly a successful revolution.

I agree that slavery should have been eliminated upon the foundation of the United States, but I dont see the full ideals of our Republic being realized until the Civil Rights Movement ran its course from the 50s to the 70s. So it took 200 years for our revolution to fully succeed.

The great thing about Democracy (or a Republic if you want to be accurate) is that we finally settled on a form of government that allowed a peaceful change of power, an reasonably equitable distribution of power and denied the decaying influence of nepotism. Dynastic succession was problematic to say the least.

Happy Birthday America!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Freedom Now Author Profile Page at July 4, 2008 3:16 PM

Happy Independence Day to all!

"I agree that slavery should have been eliminated upon the foundation of the United States, but I dont see the full ideals of our Republic being realized until the Civil Rights Movement ran its course from the 50s to the 70s. So it took 200 years for our revolution to fully succeed."

We still have vestigial affirmative action programs in place, concentrated mostly in the areas most harmed by them: higher education and government.

Today a fair percentage of the punditry and electorate find it somehow remarkable a citizen with black skin is a major party nominee for the presidency.

Government forms, most importantly those of the census, routinely audit race of citizens.

Individual freedoms, free market capitalism, and the opportunity to seek happiness by individuals, are all under attack, both directly and by subtle strategy, at an intensity far, far above any other time in our republic's history.

Sir, I respectfully disagree that the revolution has even ended, much less succeeded.

We are in dire need of a clarity moment - perhaps another Concord Green shot, except via ballot, this November. It would be nice to knock a crapload of incumbent senators and congressmen off their positions at the trough, but in reality I believe it will be the 2010 races that see wholesale changes in the legislative ranks.

It's overdue now, though, and will probably be regarded as too little, maybe too late, in 2010.

Here at the Team we have burned our ribs, chatted up our friends, and burned five shots' worth of cannon powder down at the park.

I love my country, warts and all. Because tomorrow we get another chance to be even better than we were today. Semper Fi.

Posted by: TmjUtah Author Profile Page at July 4, 2008 6:31 PM

But Michael, there are some very highly paid correspondents who are just sure things would have worked out a lot better if we'd just figured out some ways of licking the boots and kissing the asses of hereditary nobles who were setting policy on our nation from afar.

Are you saying that the United States of America is really better off without the guiding hand of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family determining our destiny?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxe_Coburg_Gotha

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 6, 2008 8:54 AM

If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen. --Samuel Adams

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 6, 2008 9:00 AM

http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/07/mixed_feelings_1.php

Michael,

The next time I call Matthew Yglesias a tool, can we just take it as given that Samuel Adams has got my back?

In the real world, however, America's two closest allies are the former colonial power and the segments of British North America that didn't join in our rebellion. Ultimately, I think the United States is a pretty awesome country but it very plausibly would have been even awesomer had English and American political leaders in the late 18th century been farsighted enough to find compromises that would have held the empire together. --Matthew Yglesias

The Obama campaign banner ad over the title bar of "The Atlantic" is purely coincidental, but it doesn't give me great hope about the foreign policy sense of either organization.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 6, 2008 4:26 PM

AWESOMER!

And furthermore OSMETHNE!

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell Author Profile Page at July 6, 2008 4:31 PM

I read that piece by Yglesias too, and I almost gagged. I've always considered self-loathing to be a mysterious psychological trait.

"John Adams" is a great show. It should be watched by everyone and anyone. I give Tom Hanks, its producer, credit for not trying to subvert history to fit his neo-leftist disposition.

Regrettably though, the most fascinating ideological clashes between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists in general, and between Adams and Jefferson in particular, are misconstrued for the mere reason that they are misunderstood, or actually, barely understood at all.

The show makes it sound like much fuss over nothing, as if the whole debate was whether to support the French Revolution or not. The greater issues of political philosophy such as centralization versus federalism, pure negative rights versus a strongly interventive federal government, and attitudes about taxing and spending are left off in the dark.

Alas, I wouldn't think the neo-leftist makers of the show would understand such issues, for if they did, they probably would be Classical Liberals instead of neo-leftist "liberals".

Still great show!

By the way, I caught a shadow of Paul Giamatti on the subway in New York.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 7, 2008 10:05 AM

I bought the CD collection of the John Adams story myself a few weeks ago and haven't had a lot of extra time to watch the many CD's that it includes, there is a lot of CD's in there, enough to keep you entertained and educated for quite some time.
Guess I need to break down and get started, sounds like it is a keeper!
Respectfully,
Raymond Whiteside
raymond.white@yahoo.com

Posted by: Raymond Author Profile Page at July 11, 2008 6:33 PM

This is by far one of the longest yet best historical movies that I have ever had the opportunity to watch. I encourage everyone to get this wonderful CD set and give it a good look at and learn while enjoying!
Keeping it Real,
Cheryl Beckham

Posted by: Cheryl Author Profile Page at July 12, 2008 4:51 PM

When was the last time you read English written that well?

Posted by: PresterJohn Author Profile Page at July 14, 2008 7:33 AM
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