On America’s Independence

CC speaking at Sesquicentennial 1926

This, our 238th year of independence, started not as a product of the material ambitions of a privileged few in order to secure power from others for themselves, it acted from the conviction that our equality, our liberties, our fitness for self-government comes from Almighty God. It resided in the hearts of the people grounded and anchored in practical experience and religious understanding. Our system is not rigged for the advantage of birth, class or caste but with a government beholden to the consent of the governed, the sovereignty of the people through their chosen representatives. America is not a lineage of birth and bloodlines but an ancestry of intangible principles. No matter from where or when we have come, the founders are the spiritual fathers of all Americans. Yet, out of those unseen precepts we have confirmed a nation of laws, boundaries and standards. Independence was above all an appeal to everyone created equal before God through eternal, spiritual truths that no government creates or can legitimately revoke.

Calvin Coolidge, marking the 150th anniversary of what was accomplished on this day, said it best, “A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

“…The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from this source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.”

“It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook to balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guarantees of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.”

As Coolidge had warned moments earlier, “No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.”

To withstand such insidious regression, the President spells out the difficult, yet necessary, road back to what our founders accomplished with this antidote,

“…We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them [the principles of our institutions] and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought…While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

“No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.”

Happy Independence Day, America! May we not fail to take what Coolidge said to heart, possessing the moral courage and political will necessary to preserve a genuine freedom of the individual and restore a united independence.

CC at Philly 1926

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