On Being of Like Spirit As They

General Washington and Lafayette, where the American forces established camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 20 miles to the north and west of British-held Philadelpia, on this day, December 19, 1777.

General Washington and Lafayette, as the American forces established camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 20 miles to the north and west of British-held Philadelpia, on this day, December 19, 1777.

“But it must be remembered that these monuments of the past are only the form and not the substance of that which we would perpetuate. They are helps, they are reminders, but of themselves they will not suffice. It is necessary that there be in us a like spirit to that which was in the Virginians of the brave days which we seek to commemorate. There is but one way to demonstrate adherence to principles, that is by acting in accordance with them. It was not the Declaration which was proclaimed one hundred and forty-six years ago that gave America its independence. It was the action of the army in the field led by Washington and his generals. It was the support of that army by the people of the colonies. It was the sacrifice made by those who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to this high purpose…

“…The world to-day is filled with a great impatience. Men are disdainful of the things that are and are credulously turning toward those who assert a change of institutions would somehow bring about an era of perfection. It is not a change that is needed in our Constitution and laws so much as there is need of living in accordance with them. The most fundamental precept of them all — the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–has not yet been brought into universal application. It is not our institutions that have failed, it is our execution of them that has failed” — Calvin Coolidge, Fredericksburg, Virginia, July 6, 1922 (emphasis added).

Calvin Coolidge planting commemorative tree, 1922. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Calvin Coolidge planting commemorative tree, 1922. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

 

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