Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Flashback on Freedom
Flashback on Freedom
By Brenda Black
“In free governments, public celebrations serve to excite a spirit of emulation. By extolling the deeds of valor and virtue, we direct that ambition into a beneficial channel, which, left to itself, would seek advancement by intrigue. They afford the fittest occasion to pay the tribute of gratitude to national benefactors; to inculcate those maxims by which freedom is supported, and to point out the dangers which menace its destruction. The mind of man, soaring on the pinions of curiosity through the regions of hope, in pursuit of higher attainments and more exalted pleasures, loses sight of present enjoyments. National blessings, grown familiar, are forgotten, and their existence endangered. From this disposition to neglect whatever has not the stamp of novelty, arises the necessity that peculiar privileges should be frequently brought to view, and the dangers which threaten their destruction often pointed out.
“Such, fellow citizens, are the principles which should induce us to commemorate, with at least one annual celebration, the great, the peculiar, and preeminent liberties and blessings we enjoy. Let us then, my friends, on this hallowed anniversary of that Day which proclaimed us a Free, Sovereign, and Independent People, prostrate ourselves before Him in whose hands are the destinies of Nations; and adore that Providence, which in a dark and eventful hour, led us safely through a perilous revolution, and enabled us in infancy to triumph over an ancient and powerful nation. May we, on every return of this auspicious day, swear at the Altar of Liberty, that we will live true to those principles which gave birth to our Independence...”
Who delivered such stirring words of patriotism? One of the famous George presidents from the beginning or more recent? A freeman or slave? An activist or preacher? None of the above. His name was Joseph E. Sprague and his words are more famous than his own name. Sprague challenged his audience on July 4, 1810, in Salem, MA. His oration was met with high regards and elicited a note of appreciation:
“Sir, The Committee of Arrangements present their unfeigned thanks to you for your elegant and spirited Oration, delivered before the Republicans on the fourth day of July instant, and respectfully ask a copy for the press.”
The manuscript is now part of a compilation of pamphlets of addresses made on Independence Day from 1791-1925. How do such words outlast time and ignore party differences? Why have they withstood wars and been preserved through countless social upheavals? Because they are just as relevant 199 years after they are spoken. They are passionate and honest and down deep that is what every generation longs to hear – and needs to hear.
“That we will remember with gratitude, and bless with our latest breath, the Sages, the Patriots, and the Warriors, who conceived and effected that glorious Revolution which gave us a name and a standing among the nations of the Earth, and which freed us from a Tyrant who sought 'to bind us in all cases whatsoever.'
“That all men are born free and equal; that they have the right to worship their Creator according to the dictates of their own consciences, and that governments were instituted for the benefit of the the governed, are axioms which are not called in question in this country, although practically contradicted by all other nations. A firm conviction of the truth of these maxims, and a fixed determination not to submit the modes of their belief to the regulations of the government... Rather than sacrifice their integrity and bend to the mandates of arbitrary power, they tore asunder the ties of society, friendship and country; they abandoned their comfortable homes, in the dead of winter, and after traversing the tempestuous ocean, settled on the barren coast of Cape Cod...The same spirited opposition to oppression which induced our ancestors to quit their pleasant homes and settle in a savage wilderness, descended uncontaminated and undiminished to their children...That spirit of liberty which had descended undiminished from sire to son, revolted...
“After the cup of reconciliation was exhausted, after humble petition on petition, and remonstrance after remonstrance was treated with contumely and contempt, the sages of the revolution, on the 4th of July, 1776, published to the world the Manifesto of Independence. This monument of human virtue, wisdom of valor...will be regarded with veneration by the remotest ages. This Declaration, like a decree of Omnipotence, fired every bosom and nerved every arm. America rose in the majesty of her strength – she endured fatigue, want, and misery – she fought, she bled, and she conquered.
“Our first duty, fellow citizens, on the return of this eventful day is to pay the tribute of our gratitude to the God of Battles, and the instruments of his providence in accomplishing the revolution. Let it not be said that the subject is trite and uninteresting. To those who venerate liberty, who prize the boon bought with the best blood of the country, the subject can never cease to be interesting, the repetition of the deeds of valor of that time can never prove tedious. The bosom that beats with a single pulse of affection for the rights of man will always throb with renewed pleasure at the recital of the valor that won our liberties – and the eye of every patriot will yield the ready tear of commiseration at the tale of persevering toil and suffering virtue by which our revolution was accomplished.”
Celebrate your freedom like never before. Need I say more.