Remembering From Where America Came

Happy birthday to a nation conceived in liberty.

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Adams.jpg
John Adams, second U.S. president, is shown posing, with book in hand, in this undated portrait. Adams was elected president in 1797.

If one takes the time to look at the 10 Commandments and the U.S. Constitution, side by side, it will become readily apparent that one is the predicate of the other.

The Founding Fathers intended for America to be a self-governing nation – but that could only be achieved if some external authority existed that would lead men to place limits on their own passions, to restrain their greed and lust and other sinful aspects in favor of what might be best for the whole.

Though there are many who try to deny it, the laws of God were a sure and certain influence on the development of the laws of man in this new nation, "conceived in liberty," as Lincoln said, "and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

The struggle to achieve equality continues to be a difficult one. In the contemporary era, many have allowed their desire to see equality of outcomes realized that they are, directly and indirectly, denying others the equality of opportunity. This is an unintended, one hopes, consequence of the persistent liberal welfare state, where deviancy is continually defined in a downward direction, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously observed, and the aspirations of the many are sacrificed for the benefit of the few.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

John Adams observed nearly as much in a letter to his wife Abigail, written on the cusp of American Independence.

Yesterday the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony 'that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all the other acts and things which other states may rightfully do.' You will see in a few days a declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few days.

When I look back to the year of 1761 and recollect the argument concerning writs of assistance in the superior court, which I have hitherto considered as the commencement of the controversy between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole period from that time to this, and recollect the series of political events, the chain of causes and effects, I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. Britain has been fill'd with Folly and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment.

Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distressing yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us will many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in states as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming, in every part, will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings.

The people will have unbounded power. And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the tea party.]

As we prepare to celebrate our independence once again, independence not just from Great Britain but from the whole idea of the divine right of kings – replaced as it was with the notion of popular sovereignty and personal, unalienable rights that come directly from God to man and which cannot be taken away by government – it is usual to remember the antecedents from which America sprung. Our country was born special, unique in the annals of recorded history and continues, despite the current day conflicts over the free exercise of speech, of assembly and of religion, continues to be so.

It is no wonder that Adams, in a second letter to his wife penned later that same day, wrote that the new nation:

… ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

Happy birthday America.

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