If our Founding Fathers and Mothers were alive, what would they think about independence in America today? Though these architects of liberty placed the cornerstone with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, would they recognize the country they first constructed?
How about Abigail Adams? This sharp-minded gal would have deep compassion and understanding for those struggling financially. She didn’t need unemployment rates to tell her how bad the economy was in her day.
“A hundred dollars will not purchase what ten formerly would” she moaned.
When husband John Adams joined the Continental Congress, he sacrificed half his family’s income. Abigail took over the other half — their farms. Her problems spouted faster than garden weeds. Inflation. Counterfeit cash. Labor shortages. Terse tenants.
“Frugality, industry and economy are the lessons of the day. At least they must be so for me or my small boat will suffer shipwreck,” she determined.
Abigail kept her family afloat by persevering and employing some Yankee ingenuity. Eventually she sold dresses and household goods that John sent her from Paris, making her the “eBay-er” of her generation.
From Wall Street to Main Street, Abigail would applaud Americans’ unending pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
Take the brash and brilliant Samuel Adams — the voice of the Sons of Liberty, Boston’s underground network that fought the king’s policies. What would Sam think of today’s Tea Parties? He would applaud them simply because they are free to do what he couldn’t — protest in the open without disguise or fake IDs.
Sam’s bold words, such as “LIBERTY, LIBERTY, is the cry” were carefully concealed behind clever nicknames. Instead of his real name, he used “Determinatus” or “Candidus” for his newspaper articles. The Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Indians for that first Tea Party.
They didn’t dare show their faces as they dumped tea into Boston’s harbor. Sam would applaud today’s Tea Parties because they prove that the freedom to assemble is not only alive but thriving.
What about Ben Franklin, the scientist extraordinaire? He was too thrifty to be first in line for last month’s iPhone4 release, but this electricity chaser would have loved the Internet. If he could have, he would’ve tweeted on Twitter and showed off his spectacles on Facebook.
On July 4, 1776, this language lover would have posted this quip: “We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
Franklin would be thrilled that freedom of press and speech are still vigorously enjoyed. After all he understood this truth: “Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech.”
Take, too, Thomas Paine. “’TIS TIME TO PART” he declared in his best-selling pamphlet, "Common Sense," in 1776. Would the sheer size of the federal government today shock him? Would he be appalled at the alleged abuse of power in the Blagojevich trial in Illinois? The federal expansion of health care? Deficit spending? Yes to all.
Today’s problems would seem more glaring than the sun to Paine. However, one fundamental reality would make him smile. His common sense solution is still intact. Paine’s practical plan was to establish a new government with checks and balances among executive, legislative and judicial branches. His remedy for royalty was representation.
While often imperfect, that freedom hasn’t changed. Americans still have the power to vote for their local officials, representatives, president, and often, their judges. They can openly express their opposition to policies they oppose.
Paine’s description of independence still holds true: “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.” That reality is something to celebrate this Independence Day.
Jane Hampton Cook, is co-author of “Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan” and author of “Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War.” For more visit janecook.com.
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Jane Hampton Cook is an award-winning author and a former White House webmaster. The author of nine books her latest is "The Burning of the White House: James & Dolley Madison and the War of 1812." For more, visit her website, janecook.com.