Even my Canadian readers will want to pay attention here. In fact, this excerpt may resonate with any resident of the Commonwealth as much as it would to an American.
It will be quite some time before I do a “Book Review” post. This book has over 800 pages, and at the moment I’m just over 100 pages in. It’s not light reading, it’s mostly speeches and letters at this point. I think the book is organized in chronological order.
I can tell you what stands out to me so far, and then I’ll give the excerpts.
There’s a question I’ve had about America, and I’ve heard it a couple of times when I was in Canada and didn’t have a good answer for it. “How can God bless the United States, when the founders rebelled against the authority?” How can God bless a rebellion? They were supposed to be all Christians and pastors and godly people from a culture that was saturated in the Bible. Why did they not submit as Paul instructs us in Romans 13?
What was surprising to me in reading through these various speeches and letters so far, was how the founding fathers, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Otis, Thomas Paine and so forth were addressing that very question. And not doing it only to themselves, and to the residents of the American colonies, but also to the king, the British parliament, the British people, Ireland, Jamaica and even the Native Americans, all in separate letters, documents and speeches.
I’m positive that they used to require at least reading some of this in school. But, that would have been before my time.
At a minimum, we should publicly (or privately) read the “Declaration of Independence” in our celebration of the Fourth of July.
What else is fascinating, is that these speeches and arguments are appropriate, relevant and would be immensely helpful today.
So, here’s the excerpts I want to share with you. These are the lines and phrases and paragraphs that I have already read to a couple of friends that asked me about them. It’s from a speech that John Hancock gave in the Constitutional Congress after the Boston Massacre. You remember, John Hancock is the man that signed his name in super large letters at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence so that the king wouldn’t need his spectacles to see who signed it.
Yeah, that guy.
And, his speech was straight fire. And, boy, does it have something to say about our situation in 2022. Here’s some excerpts. This first one is in the second paragraph, after he apologizes for not being a good speaker and how he shouldn’t have been chosen on this occasion, but somebody needs to say something, so he will give it a go. He says:
“I have always, from my earliest youth, rejoiced in the felicity of my fellow-men; and have ever considered it as the indispensable duty of every member of society to promote, as far as in him lies, the prosperity of every individual, but more especially of the community to which he belongs and also as a faithful subject of the State, to use his utmost endeavours to detect, and having detected, strenuously to oppose every traitorous plot which its enemies may devise for its destruction. Security to the persons and properties of the governed is so obviously the design and end of civil government, that to attempt a logical proof of it, would be like burning tapers (candles) at noonday to assist the sun in enlightening the world; and it cannot be either virtuous or honorable to attempt to support a government of which this is not the great and principal basis; and it is to the last degree vicious and infamous to attempt to support a government which manifestly tends to render the persons and properties of the governed insecure. Some boast of being friends to government; I am a friend to righteous government, to a government founded upon the principles of reason and justice; but I glory in publicly avowing my eternal enmity to tyranny. Is the present system, which the British administration have adopted for the government of the colonies, a righteous government, or is it a tyranny?”
What stands out to me from that passage is two sentences:
“Security of the persons and properties of the governed is so obviously the design and end of civil government”
… “I glory in publicly avowing my eternal enmity to tyranny.”
And, then he asks the question… is our current government doing that?
Then, he starts to make his case. And, after detailing some of the events that have occurred that are economic and then military in nature, he says:
“But this was not all: as though they thought it enough to violate our civil rights, they endeavoured to deprive us of the enjoyment of our religious privileges; to vitiate our morals, and thereby render us worthy of destruction. Hence the rude din of arms which broke in upon your solemn devotions in your temples, on that day hallowed by Heaven, and set apart by God himself for His peculiar worship. Hence, impious oaths and blasphemies so often tortured your unaccustomed ears. Hence, all the arts which idleness and luxury could invent were used to betray our youth of one sex into extravagance and effeminacy, and of the other, to infamy and ruin, and did they not succeed but too well? Did not a reverence for religious sensibly decay? Did not our infants almost learn to lisp out curses before they knew their horrid import? Did not our youth forget they were Americans, and regardless of the admonitions of the wise and aged servilely copy from their tyrants those vices which finally must overthrow the empire of Great Britain? And must I be compelled to acknowledge that even the noblest, fairest part of al the lower creation did not entirely escape the cursed snare? When virtue has once erected her throne in the female breast, it is upon so solid a basis that nothing is able to expel the heavenly inhabitant. But there have not been some, few indeed, I hope, whose youth and inexperience have rendered them a prey to wretches whose, upon the least reflection, they would have despised and hated as foes to God and their country? I fear there have been some such unhappy instances, or why have I seen an honest father clothed with shame; or why a virtuous mother drowned in tears?”
I didn’t know that the British government was imposing restrictions on their church services. That was surprising to me.
But, the line that jumped off the page to me was: “all the arts which idleness and luxury could invent were used to betray our youth of one sex into extravagance and effeminacy…”
That line will get you in a lot of trouble these days.
I know parts of that paragraph we have to read a couple of times, and it’s tempting to scan it and not take the time to try and understand what he’s saying. But, we are that youth he’s talking about. If we want to reject out of hand what he’s saying, we should at least try to understand it first.
He goes on to talk about the Boston Massacre, and calls for the day of March 5, 1770 to be remembered forever because of how unjust the whole affair was. And, then declares:
“But let not the miscreant host vainly imagine that we feared their arms. No; them we despised; we dread nothing but slavery. Death is the creature of a poltroon’s brains; ‘tis immortality to sacrifice ourselves for the salvation of our country. We fear not death.”
As the speech continues, these are some of the lines that I underlined.
“Let our misfortunes teach posterity to guard against such evils for the future.”
“The dark deeds of a treacherous cabal have been brought to public view.”
“This people will never be enslaved with their eyes wide open… a wise and brave people, when they know their danger, are fruitful in expedients to escape it.”
“At such a congress, a firm foundation may be laid for the security of our rights and liberties…”
“Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed, by the soft arts of luxury and effeminacy, into the pit digged for your destruction. Despise the glare of wealth. That people who pay greater respect to a wealthy villain than to an honest, upright man in poverty almost deserve to be enslaved; they plainly show that wealth, however it may be acquired, is, in their esteem, to be preferred to virtue.”
That to me, is straight, white-hot, fire…
He closes his speech with an appeal to God Almighty as the righteous judge of the whole earth who sees all, knows all, and raises up and pulls down kingdoms and empires as he pleases, and appeals for everyone to submit to His will and sovereignty.
I’d love it if you read the whole speech for yourself and then gave me your thoughts on it. You can read it here.