Eleven Score and Five Years
by Edgar J. Steele
July 3, 2001
With the July Fourth holiday just
around the corner, here are some sobering statistics about the state of
A recent survey commissioned by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation reveals that more than one in five American teen-agers don't know from whom their country declared independence during the Revolutionary War.
The nationwide survey of over 1,000 teen-agers was made up of basic fourth-grade level history questions and is representative of the approximately 24 million U.S. students between the ages of 12 and 17.
For example, nearly two of 10 students surveyed didn't know that there were 13 original Colonies or that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.
Students also missed more general history facts. One in 10 teens didn't know George Washington was the first president of the United States. Nearly a quarter didn't know who fought in the Civil War, and nearly a third didn't know who wrote America's national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner."
How would your own high school class have done with those questions? Significantly better, I wager.
Given the foregoing, it seems relevant to explore some even more obscure facts often sent 'round the Internet at this time of year.....
Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.
Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.
Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.
They signed and thereby pledged their lives, fortunes and honor.
They must have been truly exceptional people, you say? Well, yes and no. Many were just like you and me.
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants,
nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated.
But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the
penalty would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.
These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more.
Honestly, would you do any less for your own children? Now, keeping in mind the sacrifices made by our direct ancestors for us (not for themselves, certainly, because they showed only loss, not profit to their lives), consider the following things that they said, knowing that we would be listening many years thereafter. They were speaking for the record and for history, which means that they were talking to us, their sons and daughters......
"Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it." - John Adams
"Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
"... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty.... And what country can preserve its liberties, if it's rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." - Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334, C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950)
"If we wish to be free, if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending, if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained - we must fight!" Patrick Henry
"Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." - John Adams
"Can the liberties of a nation be sure when we remove their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? - Thomas Jefferson
"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves." - William Pitt in the House of Commons November 18, 1783
"We must all hang together, or, assuredly, we shall all hang separately." - Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicity. Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.
Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. - Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson's "Commonplace Book," 1774_1776, quoting from On Crimes and Punishment, by criminologist Cesare Beccaria, 1764
"Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed, unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust their people with arms." - James Madison
"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms . . ." - Samuel Adams
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive." - Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (Philadelphia 1787)
"Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American...[T]he unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." - Tenche Coxe, The Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788.
"Whenever governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins." - Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts
"The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able may have a gun...Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?" - Patrick Henry
"The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question it's methods or throw light upon it's crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.. corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong it's reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed. Abraham Lincoln
"We, the people, are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution." Abraham Lincoln
"You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments; rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe" John Adams - 2nd Pres.
"The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press." Thomas Jefferson
"Democracies have been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death." James Madison
"A generous parent would have said, 'if there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace." Thomas Paine, Common Sense
"The way to have safe government is not to trust it all to the one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to everyone exactly the functions in which he is competent....To let the National Government be entrusted with the defense of the nation, and it's foreign and federal relations..... The State Governments with the Civil Rights, Laws, Police and administration of what concerns the State generally. The Counties with the local concerns, and each ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these Republics from the great national one down through all it's subordinations until it ends in the administration of everyman's farm by himself, by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best." Thomas Jefferson
I have cobbled most of the foregoing together from things forwarded to me by others. My contribution, perhaps, is merely a somewhat more concise and compelling presentation of what others have written. Certainly, I could not hope to improve upon the sentiments expressed by others herein.
Nevertheless, now what are we to do with the republic (no, not a democracy, though regrettably that is what we have allowed it to become) entrusted to us by our fathers and forefathers, for which they gave so much and to which we have given so little? Do we wish any less for our children and their progeny than what we were bequeathed? If we don't deserve any better, based on results, what about our children?
do our ancestors deserve the disrespect that our squandering our inheritence
pays them? What is it going to take? Obviously, far more than
it took our ancestors. Nevertheless, what is it going to take? We
are taxed so much more, controlled so much more completely, exploited so much
more thoroughly and tyrannized so much more ruthlessly - than our
forefathers could have imagined tolerating before being moved to action.
What is it going to take, fellow lemmings?
"AntiSemitism is a disease...you catch it from Jews."
Copyright ©2002, 2005, Edgar J. Steele
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Edgar J. Steele, noted White-civil-rights attorney, is the author of Defensive Racism - An Unapologetic Examination of Racial Differences, now available through www.Amazon.com, though you can get a $5 discount by ordering directly from the publisher. Visit www.DefensiveRacism.com for more information and on-line ordering information or simply click here:
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