Independence Day, more than anything else, is a time for us to look back and see where we have been.
For us in America, that means a reflection on the fight for freedom; fireworks light up the night sky and remind us of the cannons and gun shots braved on behalf of the noble cause of independence.
And of course, this revolution of ours – still as peculiar as in 1776 – was not one fought for the sake of “freedom from.” Our decision to “throw off” the rule of a British sovereign was not a decision made lightly.
Instead, as Alexander Hamilton would put it, our revolution was a test, a chance to see “whether societies of men are really capable of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
Our revolution was thus not “freedom from,” but “freedom for.” We sought not only to free ourselves from injustice, but to establish justice in its place. And so we did.
Now there are many who will say that the past, however right and just, is still the past.
They will say that these men, long dead, can give us little of wisdom and good government. They will say that we are gifted a “living” document, one that changes with the time and with the tide of opinion and fact.
And yet I am not convinced. A man grows in life: he is changed by experience and environment, by culture and politics, by his friends and his loves.
But a good man, a man worth looking up to, will have something of the timeless in him. For as much as his soul might wander, he has before cast down the anchor; his principles remain beyond compromise. This is his prudence and discipline, the restraint of a serious human being.
It is this man whom we take as our model. The principle of the Declaration of Independence is timeless – so too for the Constitution; that whenever we think they must change in fact, we ought never to see them as changed in truth.
This, then, is why the founding cannot be forgotten or put aside. It is why the thoughts of men long dead can still mean something to us who are living; that we might also, as a people, cast down the anchor of our soul and live life admirably.
On this Independence Day, I hope you took the time to remember, not only where we came from, but why it was so. Think of the great men who came before, and of the great gift we were privileged to receive.
I hope everyone enjoyed a happy fourth of July.