I recently received, in my mailbox, three letters. One was apparently written by (several of) the Founders, another stems from the hand of Abraham Lincoln and the third is from Ronald Reagan. All were addressed to: “The modern-day citizens of the United States of America, to be opened and read on July 4th, the year of our Lord 2016.” All came on the same day. Surreal.
The first letter I read was crafted with a quill pen on parchment and bore a distinct message from each of four Founding Fathers. The second was Abraham Lincoln’s missive, and the third flowed from the pen of the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan. Here they are, in the order in which I have just read them.
A Fourth of July Message from Thomas Jefferson:
Dearest Americans, the Declaration of Independence, though written by my own hand, had many contributors, just as did the Constitution of these United States of America. Not just Mr. Adams, Mr. Franklin and other Founders, but Socrates’, the Magna Carta, Montesquieu, Burke, Adam Smith and others. It was written as a national Emancipation Proclamation. And, though it didn’t reach its full fruition for another four-score and seven years or more, it was intended to protect the smallest minority- each and every individual- from the greatest tyrants and bullies: Kings, dictators and governments. I implore you: never lose sight of that. We Founders won freedom for the inhabitants of this land and all the generations to follow. We are ourselves now free of all earthly shackles, yet I fear that the endeavors you have recently undertaken are leading you into an endless, if “voluntary,” servitude. Be mindful that Dr. Franklin, when queried about the form of government the Founders had given the nation’s citizenry, replied: “A Republic, as long as you can keep it.” Implicit in his answer was the fact that we didn’t want a pure democracy, as we had seen that a form of immorality nearly always overtook voters of nations with such form of government, leading the simple majority to rule roughshod over even a large minority.
I fear something similar is happening to you now. Many of your votes are being cast not for life and liberty, and what is best for the general welfare, but are being offered up to those scoundrels who promise to give the most money and goods to specific blocks of voters, or “special interest groups”. This causes a great rupture in society. This is robbing Peter to pay Paul and also leads to sloth and a diminution of individual endeavor, discipline, self-respect and…liberty.
Time indeed changes manners and notions. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.
A Fourth of July Message from George Washington:
Countrymen, I bid you good tidings and hoped that they would find a nation united, strong and free, blessed in its liberty. You may know that I was honored to lead a “rag-tag” militia and eventually molded them into a fine fighting force, and that I had several horses shot out from under me, and countless musket-balls pass through my attire. I am absolutely convinced that Providence spared me for a grand purpose. This upstart nation, with virtually no navy, lacking in arms and ammunition- and materiel’ of almost every ilk and stripe- went on to defeat the mightiest military the world had ever known. I always tried to lead from the front and refused to accept any remuneration for my part in this blessed battle for liberty.
What you may not know, is that my greatest fear was- and is- that the inhabitants of this Union would one day forget why and how it came to be in the first place. That the stupefying sacrifice my men made for nigh eight years should ultimately prove in vain is more than I can bear for eternity. Please, for your sake and theirs, for posterity and hope, for dignity and reason, do not continue in your attempts to “fundamentally change this nation.” When you fundamentally change the freest, most prosperous nation the world has ever known, the result can only be less freedom and prosperity.
My friends, government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
A Fourth of July Message from John Adams:
I would like to start by greeting my fellow patriots, but I fear that many inhabiting the land now no longer think in those terms or understand fully what it means. It doesn’t mean a dislike or disdain for other individuals or countries, but a pride in the shared achievements and character of one’s own. It doesn’t mean everything it does is perfect- or indeed even right in every case, but it doesn’t mean that anything another nation does is necessarily its equal-or better. True patriotism is attained- and laudable- when founded on individual liberty, not entitlements, on morality, not its opposite. A people can only stay truly free when educated, involved, vigilant- and unafraid- of their own government. It has been some twenty dozens of years since we declared independence. I fear that you have become soft- and content to be kept as if livestock, as long as your “civil-servant” masters will see to your food, shelter, “protection”… and ease. Remember what happens, in the end, to livestock.
The happiness of society is the end of government.
A Fourth of July Message from James Madison:
If you are reading this, dear citizens, perhaps there is still hope for the Republic we bequeathed you. Our instructions for this letter were clear: it was not to be opened until July 4th, 2016. We decided on this date, the 240th anniversary of the Declaration, as the most successful republics have lasted between 200 and 250 years, and this being also a presidential election year. I have often been referred to as the Father of the Constitution, but, though I did write much of this unique document, I am not its father. Ironically, tyranny and despotism were the parents of its blessed birth. You see, without these two, there would have been no need for their produce. The document, itself reflecting the combined wisdom of the ages, was precisely structured to protect the citizens of this land from tyrannical government… in perpetuity. It took the immutability of human nature and desire into account, along with a vast knowledge of all the world’s previous types of governments- and the results of their governance. The document, we hoped, would lead to a happier people than any that had come before, free in their pursuit of life, liberty and property. Please do not think that it should be fundamentally altered or aborted now. Be ever vigilant and jealously guard your freedoms and independence.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
A Fourth of July Letter from Abraham Lincoln-
Seven score and thirteen years ago, your forefathers engaged in a titanic clash to determine whether a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…could long endure. Through their bloodshed and heartache, their sacrifice and courage, their honor and commitment, it did. Now I ask of you: should their sacrifice have been in vain? Will the actions you take now, render their courage, bloodshed and heartache moot? I have beseeched the Almighty. Now I beseech each and every one of you reading this…to answer each of those questions with a distinct and determined no!
A Fourth of July Letter from Ronald Reagan-
My fellow Americans, we are a nation that has a government, not the other way around.
You know, not so many years ago, I said it was “Morning in America.” And it- at least figuratively- truly was. I also urged Mr. Gorbachev to “Take down this wall!” Shortly thereafter, it came down, leading to a rebirth of freedom for many souls previously trapped in servitude. Now, my fellow Americans, it is in your charge to answer these questions: Is it still morning in America, or will we soon be in mourning…for America? Is that shining city on a hill going to continue to be a beacon, or will you let it slide into the yawning abyss, never to rise again?