The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

I don’t know about you guys, but most of what we have talked about this week, I find distasteful. There are few things that infuriate me more than the abuse of power, and it’s only worse when it is a powerful man abusing young women. perhaps at least some of them were willing to play the game, after all ‘the casting couch’ is a cliché for a reason, but why, exactly, should they have to. Yes, people will always abuse power, if they can, but we do not have to let them. In any case that was part of the reason that this week’s picture post was about Navy Day, not that they don’t deserve the recognition. I had simply had enough, and most of what I had was about Weinstein. Yuck! As I said today in a comment, Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back in our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. here’s my dearly beloved dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

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Video Monday

I was doing things other than writing last night, once in a while, I like to step away from the blog, and recharge, and doing this seven days a week can get to be a pain. Okay, whinge over, and yeah, I volunteered. How about some videos today? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched these, most of them more than once, and I like them. I think you will too. Obviously, you don’t have to watch all of them, watch the ones that interest you, but they all cover some facet of what we do here.

Steve Bannon making sense? Yep, surprising as it is.

Ben Shapiro on why your feeling don’t matter

I wish we could convince the Brits of this because it is obviously true.

The modern world is a Tudor Enterprise. Think about that for a bit. That is what one can accomplish with “the stomach of a king, and yes, a King of England”.

As we change course a bit, just who is smarter? Eh, who cares, really? But Siobahn! 🙂

We’ve said this many times: If you do not have the freedom to fail, you can not succeed.

How we got rich…

How to keep it happening:

Sense a theme here? Yep, there is one. It’s called personal responsibility. If you want to accomplish something, you need to take responsibility for it. Whether you’re Stephan Langton leading the barons to Runnymede, Queen Elizabeth humbling the greatest Empire of the age, our founders doing that humbling thing again, or the guy that wants to start the next Microsoft; you need to own it, to work hard at it, and maybe fail a few times before you get it figured out, not run to Washington, claiming to be a victim. We, the Anglophone nations built the world we live in following these simple rules, seems silly to me to quit doing something that has worked so well.

Although I suppose if I simply desired power over others without reason, simply the power of the clenched fist, I would probably dislike this world, with its emphasis on freedom and justice. Think about that.

The Mission Statement

241 years ago a mission statement was issued. They didn’t use that fad term of course but, that’s exactly what it was. it was a mission statement for a revolution, indeed it was a mission statement for a whole series of revolutions extending down to the present day. Here it is.

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. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

What did it all mean on that long ago 4th of July? Nothing, not a damned thing, it was just a revolt of part of the middle class in an unimportant colony.

But, through heartbreaking efforts and sacrifices, they made their high-flown words good, against the greatest empire of the age, plus its hired mercenaries.

Thus was formed the United States of America and even more, the Free World itself.

Because from this mission statement came not only the American Revolution but, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the very quiet revolution in Great Britain itself as the common man took on the roles and responsibility that had belonged to the knights and squires of the country.

Thus was lit the fire of the torch of liberty, never extinguished since.

I’m sure that my readers in the Anglosphere will note that our grievances all were about the traditional rights of English freemen. That is the reason that the revolt was cast against King George III, who was more German than English, rather than the Parliament.

Nor is it to say that even in that day that the colonists were bereft of friends in England, William Pitt the Elder, Charles James Fox (who wore the Continental colors into Parliament itself), Edmund Burke, and Adam Smith (whose Wealth of Nations was published that year also) come to mind.

Thus was fired the torch of Liberty that has lighted the path for us, the descendants of Rebels, and Rebels still, from that day to this, nor will we willingly see it change in the future, for if the torch is extinguished there will only be the darkness of tyranny.

I have not the words to describe my love of America but, luckily others do. Here is an excerpt from Cassandra of  Villainous Company,  who phrases it better than I could dream of doing.

We were the First. We are the guardians of the flame. Not perfect beings, but in all the world the only ones, it seems, still naive enough, still brave enough, still daring enough to put our money where our mouths are. We are the only ones who are still willing to defend the dream with our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor.

Not all the time. Not in every single instance, because that is impossible. And honest liberals will admit that: in a universe with limited resources, choices must be made. But where we can, where it aligns with our interests and with the interests of the rest of the world: yes.

Our own Revolution was not without blemish. Innocent men were tarred and feathered. Families torn asunder. People bled, and suffered and starved. There was even [shudder] terrorism. But it lit a flame that has burned brightly for over 200 years. […]

We would like certainty. We would like painless progress. We would like closure. We will not get any of those things.

On July 4th we must ask ourselves, what do we believe? Our military – brand new immigrants who enlist before the ink is dry on their visas – believe in those words so strongly that they will lay down their lives to spread the fire of democracy. They also believe (as I do) that their purpose is to serve American foreign policy aims, no matter how abstract and long-term they may seem. No matter how difficult to explain to the American people. No matter how frustrating in the short term.

What kind of world will we bequeath to our grandchildren? It may be that long before we know. But our actions today will have an incalculable effect on that far-off tomorrow. And if our policy is not firmly grounded in the spread of those long-ago words:

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…

…then I wonder if we shall not be the first Americans who fail to pass the blessings of liberty on to the next generation?

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph. is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke.

Happy Birthday, America. May you always be great. May you remain a nation of thinkers, of dreamers, of believers, of doers; striving always towards our ideals without despising the imperfect means we use to achieve them.

But most importantly, may you never give in to cynicism and despair. In life as in sports, ninety nine percent of success lies in simply showing up.

D0 read her entire article here.

Hey listen, the band is playing our song

The world knows that where that flag flies, there is liberty.

Happy Birthday, America, Press on, Continue the mission!

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Continental Army General Horatio Gates. by Stuart

Here is a bit about how we got from that ragtag Continental Army overlooking Boston Harbor to where we are now. It’s a saga, that’s never told too often, how this laughing upright nation of freeman, have fielded forces with, in Frederick Douglass’ words, with the eagle on their button, and the musket on their shoulder, always in defense of Freedom and Liberty.

You see when the Declaration of Indepenence was issued, there were troops (militia, really) called the Continental Army bottling up the British in Boston with some artillery captured at Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen in the name of the “Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress” and hauled to Boston with great difficulty. The army could barely move or fight because of the lack of training but they hung in there.

Later that year, the British invaded New York with the largest British Armada before the invasion of Europe in 1944. We lost that battle too, but kept on keepin’ on.

General Gates in the south had a strategy a few years later best described (by Daniel Morgan “The Old Wagoner”. I think) as “we fight, get beat, retreat, and do it again. That pretty much sums up how we held on till the French showed up.

Even then we shouldn’t forget those huts in the snow where the barefoot, starving, freezing army lived at Valley Forge. Nor should we forget that the Continental Army paraded naked through Philadelphia on their way to Yorktown. And we think we have it bad?

But you don’t want to read 4000 words of military history on the 4th of July, after all there’s hot dogs to eat and beer to drink. So here’s a summary from Bill Whittle.

We’ve really come a long way even in the last 70 or so years. I doubt that anybody realizes what our military (descended from that rag-tag bunch) could really do, if we let them fight a war in the fashion of World War II, and I’d bet money I couldn’t afford to lose, that no one would try it a second time.

 

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.

President Kennedy said it but that’s not a politician’s promise. That’s the record and promise of the American People.

If you wish us ill, you would be well advised to remember that we are also allied to most of the best warriors in the world, we learned well enough from them to beat them.

But, you know the toughest war we’ve ever been in was the one we fought with ourselves 150 years ago, today marks the beginning of the end of that one too, as Gettysburg ended today and tomorrow Vicksburg surrendered.

Eagles are patient birds but, they have a limit and a very, very long reach. When US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was asked recently, ” What keeps you awake at night?” He could answer, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,”

And so, back in 1908 an Irishman was our flagbearer at the opening parade of the 1908 London Olympics and started one of our most cherished traditions.

“This flag dips to no earthly King or Potentate”

and it hasn’t.

A Committee of the Whole

Oil on canvas painting of Richard Henry Lee. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Something different this week. I’m a bit tired of the Stürm und Drang of politics, especially in Washington and London. I also suspect that they’ll still be going at it when we return, soap operas are like that. And besides it’s the Fourth of July weekend, and nothing they’re going to do in the next few days is anywhere near as important as what the Second Continental Congress did this week 241 years ago. Most of these posts are from 2012 when this blog was less than a year old, and I’m making minimal changes to them, and most of you are new here, and they are just as valid as they were then. Hope you enjoy them.

Let us take note that today there is a document in the committee of the whole of Congress, for editing. It was written by Mr. Jefferson of Virginia, pursuant to a resolution offered by Virginia Delegate Richard Henry Lee and seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts.

“Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they 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.”

We would be wise to note that this resolution was passed with heavy hearts, not from fear, but from long affection for our cousins in the United Kingdom.

Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.

—Thomas Jefferson, November 29, 1775

So it would be. It is the same conflict that led to Magna Charta, and to the Glorious Revolution. This time carried out in a war that would change the world. In fact, many of us refer to it as the Second English Civil War, for such it was.

We probably won’t take the time later this week so let’s note now that the ensuing unpleasantness would lead to one of the largest mass emigrations the United States would ever see, that of many Loyalists to Canada. They imparted to the Canucks some measure of understanding us without taking our world famous rowdiness with them. God Bless them.

They like the United Kingdom itself would in time become the friends that prove Bismarck’s dictum true, “Great Nations do not have friends, they have interests”. This nation does.

A film clip perhaps, showing Hollywood’s version of the difference between Americans and Canadians.

And so as we begin the celebration of independence this week, we would be wise to remember that while we have the oldest government in the world, we are amongst the youngest of countries. But we had a head start, for we built this country on the shoulders of giants.

History and How It Moves Us

Headquarters parlor VF right

Well, guys, the blog is having the best week it has had in months, so I’m grateful to you all. The last year has been a trial, some say that Google changed the algorithms to hurt conservative blogs. I have no idea if that is so, which is why I haven’t written about it, but I can tell you our readership suddenly halved last July, and just in the last week are we approaching where we were. Hope I’m not jinxing it by telling you. 🙂

There have been quite a few times in the last year when I came very close to hanging it up, just seemed like I wasn’t accomplishing anything, but habit is strong, and I haven’t run out of things to say. So on we go. Things look a bit better here in the Great Republic but much remains to be done, and one hopes it will be. So we’ll see.

As I write this, I’m feeling very down. It is an anniversary in my life, something started some years ago on this date, that I thought would be part of my life as long as I was in this world. Sadly it seems it was not to be, and I’m much the poorer for it. Nothing any of us can do, but last night was a quite hard one for me. Well, such is life, it seems.

Winge over, thanks for listening!

This, however, is very interesting. Did you ever wonder how they would see us say a hundred years from now? Two Nerdy History Girls published on that very topic a few days ago.

Susan reporting,

The perception of the historical past is always changing. Each new generation looks at history with fresh eyes, and fresh ideas, too.

Nowhere is this more evident than in how we Americans have treated our historically important buildings. In the years following the American Revolution, many of the place we now venerate most were simply old buildings, allowed to grow more shabby by the year.

Portions of Independence Hall in Philadelphia – the site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence – had already fallen into such disrepair that they were torn down in 1812. Federal Hall in New York City – home of the first Congress as well as where George Washington was inaugurated as the first president – was also demolished barely a generation later in 1812. Built in 1713, the Old State House in Boston witnessed the Boston Massacre, but was later cut up into shops and businesses, and finally suffered the ultimate indignity of having a subway station built into its basement.

But the Centennial celebrations of 1876 brought a new interest in preserving the past. Older buildings were finally beginning to be recognized and preserved for their historical importance. Sometimes, however, these early preservationists often relied on a romanticized version of the 18thc, with some interesting results.

The present-day Valley Forge National Historical Park in Pennsylvania first became recognized as a state park focused on history in 1893. Then, as now, the centerpiece of the park was the stone farm house used by General George Washington as his headquarters during the Continental Army’s winter encampment of 1777-78. Also known as the Isaac Potts House for the original owner, the Headquarters was occupied not only General Washington, but by his wife Martha Washington, seven aides-de-camp, servants, and occasional visitors. The house is not large, especially not considering how many people were squeezed inside it, and from contemporary reports, quarters were cramped, and tempers often ran short.

Follow the link above and keep reading, I, at least, think it is fascinating, how our perceptions have changed. And like them, I wonder what they will think in 2117.`I just have to tell you, a few years ago I was visiting Valley Forge (again) and I happened to find the Chapel. Well, I can’t remember when I have been so moved. A small Gothic chapel, with the battle flags of the Continental Army as the only decoration other than the altar furniture. It moved me deep in my soul, to the point that now, some thirty years later, I remember it as if it was yesterday.

And that is what a historical site, well presented, will do. Suddenly, we will be able to perceive the struggles that our forebears went through to make our today’s possible. It is simply amazing.

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