Brexit didn’t break it, but it was merely the latest, not the last ripple, from the tidal wave that struck the ancient order of kings over 240 years ago. Independence—a departure from dependence—did not come easily for revolutionary Americans, and won’t be easy for Britons or Americans in 2016 and beyond.
In late June 1776, Philadelphia was hot, humid, and tense, as our Founders waited for their long deliberations to reach a final vote. By that time, powder smoke from the shots at Lexington and Concord in April of ’75 had long disappeared into the ether, and General Washington was having a time of it, as he and his troops knew only they were fighting against British oppression. For what else, they weren’t certain.
Representatives from the thirteen colonies had been debating and negotiating, weighing the merits of a break from the mother country and their king. As they did so, Washington’s officers spied forty-five British warships dropping anchor off Sandy Hook near New York City on June 29th. By then, a divided people had been roused by warfare in Massachusetts, by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which had swept the colonies in January, by Britain’s unwillingness to reasoned concessions.
Thomas Jefferson, Virginia’s delegate, had journeyed to Philadelphia the year before as one of the sultans of the South, accompanied by his three favorite slaves, Jesse, Jupiter, and Richard. Though spoiled and brilliant, he was an unlikely vessel for the spirit of freedom firing the country. By all accounts, when a consensus seemed sure, it took Jefferson but a day or two to draft the group’s resolutions. A man with a large ego, he suffered in near silence as other representatives picked at his language—replacing his words with “self-evident truths,” for example—but on July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted to “dissolve the connection” with Great Britain. The complete text of the Declaration of Independence followed two days later, and the world order changed forever.
With no Constitution whatsoever, no Bill of Rights, there was no precedent upon which to resort as the colonials pledged their all to secure freedom, whether they were hanged separately or together. The next years were long, bloody, and brutal, but the rest, as they say, is history.
Or have we forgotten some of it? Or have we gone misty-eyed about a drama of highly imperfect men and women forging raw, competing, regional demands into an often fractious nation. In law’s name, we sheltered slavery, racism, bigotry, and xenophobia aplenty, but with each new generation, we came to a better understanding about not what we were, but what we must become.
We elected Lincoln, an undoubted racist by stringent standards of today, but the best man to hold the union as one when all others were ready to tear it asunder. We elected two elitist New York governors, both Roosevelts, because people felt they were right for the times, and no one expected them to pass a qualifications test. Indeed, when Teddy came upon the scene we were a new world power, and his grasp of geopolitics had no discernible grounding. Who would have thought a severely handicapped New Yorker of the next generation would be called upon to lead the nation through Depression and World War—and as most know, FDR was far from a perfect specimen of personal purity or unbigoted leadership.
In 1992, we elected a smooth talker whose credential as Governor of Arkansas hardly qualified him to lead the free world. Even when his qualifications included Whitewater greed and Lewinsky lechery, we hearkened to his oiled words. Was Barack Obama, a man of still uncertain academic credentials and no demonstrated job skills whatsoever, qualified to become POTUS?
Now, we have someone who coat tailed and bootstrapped her way to her party’s nomination for president. Occupying a position such as First Lady and Senator, with little memorable accomplishment, followed by a Secretaryship of little historic note except disaster, hardly qualifies her for the Oval Office.
Yet, all of Hillary’s adherents, the State Media crowd, and some conservative stalwarts on the GOP side lambaste Donald Trump, the clear and certain choice of his party’s voters, as boorish, irresponsible, and unqualified.
Boorish and vocally impulsive at times, he is guilty as charged. Discomforting as his remarks can be, we heard little outcry when our sitting VP made disparaging racial remarks about his boss-to-be in 2008, his racial comments about those who operate convenience stores, the implications of a SCOTUS justice’s NYT comments about the need for abortions to thin out undesirables, or the legion of cracks progressive operatives utter about the evils of Christianity.
Unqualified? Whatever else one might say about his list of imperfections, compared to so many others who have gained the Oval Office, Mr. Trump is most definitely an acknowledged leader of some gravitas.
At our nation’s fiftieth anniversary of our independence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Founders and political combatants, lay dying hundreds of miles apart. Jefferson’s thoughts were on the nation’s future. Adams’ last toast was, “Independence Forever.” And on July 4, 1826, they left this earth far better than they found it, but uncertain whether Americans could keep their new treasure.
The polls and betting pools in Britain were wrong because they misread the mood of the British people. While Brexit was pegged at only 24% for Leaving, the electorate went 52% to 48% for their new independence. Independence from a grasping, all-powerful set of new order kings and bureaucrats bunkered in Brussels promulgating an open-borders, national cleansing form of socialist hegemony.
As we approach our 240th year of independence this July 4th, unlike the Founders, we need not pledge our lives and sacred fortune. We need only pledge our vote for a new independence from the current order of power and privilege rigged against the sons and daughters of liberty.
Special thanks to Joseph Ellis for American Spinx, and David McCullough for his 1776, and John Adams.