On September 11, Patriot Week recognizes the First Principle of Revolution (i.e., the right to alter or abolish an oppressive government); Founding Fathers Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, and John Adams; the key document of the Declaration of Independence, and the historical Bennington (’76 Flag).
FIRST PRINCIPLE: REVOLUTION
Indeed, after suffering the cruel tyrannical actions of the British Empire such as as taxation with representation, suppression of the right to the jury, quartering of troops, military occupation, and the closure of legislative assemblies, the Founding Fathers determined that they must declare independence.
Patrick Henry eloquently explained that “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 so long engaged . . . we must fight! . . . What is it that gentlemen wish? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Later, Henry could rightly declare that America rebelled for “the holy cause of liberty.”
The Declaration of Independence crystalized our Founding Fathers understanding of the proper role of government when it declared that governments are instituted to protect the unalienable rights of men, and “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a 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.”
Thus, recognizing that in the end the people are responsible for maintaining their freedom, the Declaration of Independence and the Founding Fathers recognized that if a government oppresses the people through a “long train of abuses and usurpations,” that “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
The Declaration of Independence recognized the right of the people to alter or abolish an oppressive government. The Founders’ sentiments are so eloquently expressed that it is best to let the Declaration speak for itself.
“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 to 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 shown 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. . . .
"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 attention 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 the 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."
FOUNDING FATHERS THOMAS PAINE, PATRICK HENRY, AND JOHN ADAMS
Born on May 29, 1736 in Hanover County, Virginia, Henry was a former storekeeper, turned lawyer and political leader. He led colonial resistance to British oppression as early as 1763.
Thomas Jefferson gave Henry credit for setting “the ball of the revolution” in motion. On March 23, 1775, Henry solidified the cause of independence before the House of Burgesses. He exclaimed:
"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 so long engaged... we must fight! It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter, Gentlemen may cry, Peace, peace – but there is no peace... Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
Although the Constitution was ratified over his objections, his opposition to the original Constitution - along with many others - led to the quick ratification of the Bill of Rights.
Through his unparalleled powerful pamphlets Common Sense and The Crisis, Thomas Paine played a critical role in sparking and supporting the American Revolution. Born in Thetford, England on January 29, 1737, Paine’s eclectic background before the American Revolution included, among other things, careers as a corset maker, merchant seaman, supernumerary officer, excise officer, stay-maker, school teacher, and inventor.
He penned Common Sense (1776), which more than any other tract, gave voice to the reasons why the time had come for America to declare independence from the British Empire. Within three months, over 120,000 copies of Common Sense were distributed in colonial America, and Paine’s work became the largest selling book (other than the Bible) in the century. Common Sense in large measure swayed public opinion in favor of independence.
During the difficult days of the Revolutionary War, Paine wrote The Crisis (1776-1777), which helped solidify patriotic support for the war effort.
Born in Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1736, Adams was the son of a modest preacher.
During the revolutionary era, he challenged British oppression in Boston. He served in the First and Second Continental Congress. He also, however, successfully defended several of the British soldiers who were accused of murder in the Boston Massacre.
Fellow Founding Father Benjamin Rush wrote that “Every member of Congress in 1776 acknowledged him to be the first man in the House. Dr Brownson (of Georgia) used to say that when he spoke, he fancied an angel was let down from heaven to illuminate the Congress.” Adams’ forceful and well reasoned arguments led the colonists to declare independence.
After the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, he was sent to France and Holland, and aided in negotiating the peace treaty with England. After the American Revolution, he served as minister to the Court of St James in England. After his return he was elected as Vice President under George Washington.
After Washington voluntarily retired after two terms as President, Adams was elected the second President of the United States. In 1800, he lost his bid for re-election to his political rival Thomas Jefferson.
HISTORICAL BENNINGTON FLAG
The Bennington (’76) Flag was marched into battle during the Revolution in 1777 around Bennington Vermont. It has long stood as a symbol of American freedom and liberty.
Learn more about America and Patriot Week, and renew the American Spirit, visit www.PatriotWeek.org, Facebook, Twitter, or contact Judge Michael Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.