Posts Tagged ‘Independence’

Lady Liberty Aglow

The question was posed to my blog group “What does freedom mean to you?” Those who have read my blog long enough know of my penchant for things American, not the least of which are the ideals of liberty and freedom. So you might imagine my delight at seeing such a question posed.

America is, by its very nature, a melting pot. Neither I nor the rest of my country are as strong individually as we are collectively. To be an American doesn’t mean you are only caucasian, it means we are every race, creed, national origin, and even skin color you can think of. At our core though, all Americans are red, white, and blue. Each of us pursue our own dreams and desires, we live our lives largely on an individual basis, reaching out and embracing family and friends. Ask most of us what we really love and the responses you’ll get will run the gamut from materialistic to spiritual. It’s not unfair to say that each of us, deep down, reserves a small piece of real estate upon which we quietly nurture our love for our country, an ideal not indigenous to America alone.
Ask me if America (or our government) is perfect? I emphatically respond “No.”
Ask me if many things could be better? Naturally, I respond “Yes.”
Ask me what I think it means to be American? I say “For me it reduces down to two simple but powerful words: Freedom and Responsibility.”
I consider myself most fortunate, even blessed, to be an American. I enjoy, even take for granted, freedoms which people of other nations dream of or only read about in clandestine shadows and forbidden books. We have an immigration problem here because of what America is, not because as Americans we hate outsiders. The mere fact I can write this and speak my mind without fear of reprisal is because of our Constitution. That doesn’t mean I can be disrespectful just for the sake of speaking out; with powerful freedoms come equally powerful responsibilities. You can’t have one without the other.
Frankly, if you don’t like America then I and many of my American brothers and sisters wholeheartedly welcome and encourage you to leave. We don’t expect you to love everything about it, good and bad. Most of us don’t either. But we also try to work at becoming better people, better citizens . . . better Americans.
I take Liberty, to have and to hold. I will fade and pass eventually, but within my bloodline run the hopes and dreams of America.
Let Freedom ring.

Freedom, for many of us, means the ability to come and go as we please, to speak our minds, to travel, to exist within a certain framework of openess. For others it implies opportunity, perhaps to start over or simply acheive and excel more than possible before. In his book The Story of American Freedom, Eric Foner sums it up this way:

“Americans have sometimes believed they enjoy the greatest freedom of all—freedom from history. No people can escape from being bound, to some extent, by their past. But if history teaches anything it is that the definitions of freedom and of the community entitled to enjoy it, are never fixed or final.
We may not have it in our power, as Thomas Paine proclaimed in 1776, “to begin the world over again.” But we can decide for ourselves what freedom is.”

Men of great intelligence and passion took tremendous risks with their lives in the hopes that liberty would carry an infant nation, raise it above blueblood tyranny and respirate with the incendiary breath of righteousness. Wills of stone and hearts of kings carved away from English rule what “ought to be,” staving off a thrashing imperialistic beast. Are such men still among us?
Who now can see a million stars lying upon the water, and carefully, judiciously, ripple the water for the greater good and not self-interest—make good come from past mistakes, and one-by-one set the peoples’ victories to breathe in the velvet warmth of the midday sun?
Who will stand apart from the shrill voices of deception and answer honestly for every action?
At the root of all politics, of any movement of philosophy or philanthropy, sits the frailty of humanity. Its very nature an anathema as well as a gift. Amidst such documents of great intention and purpose should be men and women not only willing to exercise their humanity, but do so bereft of personal gain, save that of fulfilling a love of service to their country.
Perhaps our form of government isn’t the gold standard. It certainly isn’t perfect. On every issue, at every turn, stand opposing viewpoints and vehement exertions urging the behest of each one. Underneath it all should quietly but dependably beat the heart of a patriot. Never, not in our lifetimes, nor that of our children or their children in perpetuity, should any of us witness the dying gasp of freedom. It will always assuredly struggle and fight within itself, for out of that comes understanding. Unbridled it should never labor so, but raised with the discipline of proper loyalty it will prosper and mature.
Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense, “Time makes more converts than Reason.” With a little help from Providence, Liberty will continue to hold her lamp aside the golden door, and we’ll be ever vigilant as we watch through the window of Time.


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He’d been sent as ambassador to Holland for the yet-to-be and very much struggling United States of America. The Continental Army, under the beseiged leadership of General George Washington, was trying desperately to find its collective ass with both hands—Congress had long since stopped paying the soldiers, supplies were either scarce or not to be had at all, and between defeats and abandonment the rank-and-file were becoming thinner by the day.

John Adams was hustled off to Amsterdam to convince the Dutch king that the American fight for independence was worth Danish backing. He’d been told it would be a tough argument, but his newborn country desperately needed a healthy infusion of money and arms, if both could be had. Benjamin Franklin was already firmly entrenched in France with the objective of trying to woo the French Court to our side as well. At least he had the built-in advantage of the French and British hating each other. The Dutch were really too self-absorbed to get involved in any international conflicts. Adams basically got the short straw. It had been Adams’ passionate arguments in the courtroom and on the floor of Congress that earned him passage overseas.

But of passions he had no more profound than for his wife, Abigail. John Adams fiercely loved America. He’d spent a great deal of time and energy supporting the cause for independence. But the person he was most devoted to over anyone else was his wife. When he wrote to her he referred to her as “Dearest Friend,” his “best, dearest, worthiest, wisest friend in the world”—while to her, he was “the tenderest of husbands,” her “good man.” John considered Abigail his equal. She was very well read, and equally passionate about her values and beliefs; both shared a steadfast commonality in pursuing independence from the British crown.

During one bleak point, amongst news of the “Boston Massacre” and royal needling with things like the Stamp Act, there were calls for attempts at reconciliation with Britain. Abigail set pen to paper when a petition was circulated in Braintree in support of reconciliation:

I could not join today in the petitions . . . for a reconciliation between our no longer parent state, by a tyrant state and these colonies. Let us separate, they are unworthy to be our brethren.

While traveling through New York en route back to Boston, John purchased two copies of a small, anonymous pamphlet that had recently been published and had been causing quite a stir. He kept one copy and sent the second to Abigail.

It was titled Common Sense.

John and Abigail spent four years apart while he was in Europe. They never became accustomed to the distance. In their letters to each other they repeatedly and fervently stated how very much one longed for and needed the other. To be away from somebody so elegantly but firmly woven into your soul is hardship enough, but can we today truly begin to imagine how incredibly difficult it must have been in the late 1700’s? We have cell phones, airplanes, and e-mail today. In their time correspondence took months to cross such distances, and many times never made it at all.

Abigail, and their daughter Nabby, eventually sailed for Europe to join their husband and father, but only after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. Abigail was deathly horrified of travel by sea and many times had pleaded with John to return home. He desperately wanted to, but he had finally secured Dutch recognition of America as a sovereign, independent country and also procured loans which were still sorely needed. This sudden success resulted in his presence being needed in Paris, alongside Thomas Jefferson and an ailing Benjamin Franklin. They were to work together on what became the Treaty of Paris. As an interesting aside, Congress sent specific instructions stating they were to follow the wishes of the French during deliberations. As it turned out, all three were absolutely outraged that so much blood would be shed and such hardships faced only to become puppets to another throne. So they did as they saw fit, which history later shows us worked greatly to our advantage.

Throughout their separation both Abigail and John suffered physically as a result of the distance. But both believed so strongly in the cause of freedom they placed themselves secondary to its germination and care. Upon once again being rejoined on the outskirts of France, they found great contentment and happiness in one anothers company. While Jefferson and Franklin often fell ill, Adams’s own health was more robust than ever, thought in large part as a result of being with the woman he so dearly cherished. John not only had his daughter and wife with him, but also his oldest son, John Quincy. While Abigail often bemoaned the seemingly interminable passing seasons in Massachusetts without her “good man,” the four of them en famille had paid dividends far beyond what she’d ever dreamt possible. She’d supported her husband from afar and held both he and her beloved America in the same stead. After some time in France, especially during winter when snow was falling upon the Parisian countryside, she would become sadly homesick, having once written to her sister Mary that it “looked so American.” “What a sad misfortune it is,” she added, “to have the body in one place and the soul in another.” Now she missed her country, but was with her best friend and husband.

John Adams’s contribution to the founding fabric of our nation is not nearly as predominant in our education as those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln; indeed, all great leaders and icons in their own right. John Adams had, on many occasions, been accused of great self-puffery and outright vanity, yet he also retained the admiration and respect of men such as Jefferson and John Jay for his sharp mind and unwavering dedication to the cause of freedom. His two most profound loves he clearly served his life for—Abigail and America.

Inarguably, neither can be said to be “light and transient causes.”

Happy Birthday America! A toast to our Republic . . . “if we can keep it.”

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