"You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not."
These men signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. They did not sign that document easily, likely pausing for just a moment, pausing, not hesitating, bending as needed but not bowing, signing with fierce, exultant belief in what they were doing, even knowing they were now likely damned forever of all peace.
The American Revolutionary War of Independence was not an exercise in "the possible." Most Americans believed it was impossible to resist the King's Officers and win colonial freedom in 1776. The Declaration of Independence was an act of treason, punishable by death..
Our founders knew all of this going in, understood the almost insurmountable difficulties ahead of them, but chose freedom anyway. In signing the document they pledged their not insubstantial fortunes, their good name, their very lives. How many signers of the Declaration were put to death or imprisoned, their fortunes destroyed, their families punished? What was the total civilian economic price of freedom in 1776? How many years did we fight a Revolutionary War? How many were killed in battle because Thomas Paine correctly predicted victory and rightly demanded action? We need to remember these facts, we need to pass them on to each and every generation, not just on the 4th of July.
The British Army was one that couldn't be beat. But beat them we did. It was not our numbers that made the difference it was what we had personally vested in the battle. For us, this was not some dual, some joust between old warriors, the deed not done for the outcome, but for the sake of the doing, proving nothing but the finality of death and the useless vanity of all such endeavors. This battle was for the very heart of what brought people to this land in the first place, the type of people who yearned to craft their own future, to be free, so different than those that could not survive if they were.
Freedom is never free. That document, which engendered a freedom so vast that it allowed our country to grow from 13 small colonies to become arguably the most powerful nation in the world in only 200 years, did not come without great sacrifice by many of its signers. Yes, some survived to see the "rays of ravishing light and glory", while a few had their lives irretrievably lost or broken as a result of their actions.
Yet those sacrifices bore fruit, attracting more immigrants who came here legally, giving full measure of their hard work and loyalty to our flag,our language, adding to the strength and productivity of this great nation.
Today is not the 4th of July, it's Independence Day. Around the country there will be too many people thinking of it as just a day off, a chance to grill or get drunk, to make noise for the sole purpose of making noise, forgetting what this day is all or about, or even worse, not caring. Outside, our country is apologising to our enemies, so they think us a mighty animal crawling to a foreign watering hole, to drink in the act of dying, instead of that which still has great power and a citizenry armed and ready to defend.
What would our Founding Fathers think if they were here today, and saw what was happening to the country they gave their blood for?
I woke early and went for a walk along the bike path in the drowsing solitude of train tracks, a .45 on my hip, watching for a train that might come into the city. What is it about the locomotive I'm always drawn to? Perhaps it's just that motion, that impulse to move, to gather steam and fire into force and purpose, moving into the light of a new day.
Such as it was with our Founding Fathers, They were small but powerful, a growing force driven by dream not delusion, nothing in their memory or heritage assuring their success. Still, they were willing to leave all familiarity of land and home, all security, to seek freedom, empty handed of all but free will and courage.
Let us remember that our freedom was purchased with a very high price. Let us not forget there is still a fight within us. Even those of us that, for duties bound, must remain mostly silent, yet quietly toil to preserve those freedoms. For sometimes that silence lies over a fathomless, abiding love for the freedoms we have inherited, as well as a fierce determination to see them survive for our posterity
Never forget that we must prevail so that we are worthy of that heritage. Never forget, or otherwise these freedoms will be lost to us in quiet dust.
The train is long out of sight, it's thunderous fury long past, wheels in motion, shiny fittings that gleamed in the morning light, like sabers, now only a fading ghost of shadow. It's whistle is only an echo, forlorn, inviolate, yet still with us, as long as there are those who can tell its story, who can remember the power of it's purpose.