Most of our readers will hopefully be sitting down with this edition of The Spotlight after enjoying a pleasant and safe Fourth of July holiday.
The Fourth is a crackerjack holiday simply because of what it commemorates: the birth of our nation. It’s what you might call a landmark event. It’s also what many would call the quintessential example of American freedom. That’s where the concept really was cemented, in Philadelphia by a group of men wearing tights and wigs.
As we grab tiny flags and salute this momentous occasion, it’s pretty easy to forget exactly how fragile this country was back in 1776, and how many hardheaded, argumentative people stood in the way of a united nation. Make no mistake about it, America is a country founded in the midst of squabbling politicians.
The Articles of Confederation (which established an official union between the states) was not ratified by the 13th colony until nearly five years after the Declaration’s signing, for example. Then later on, there was this little tiff called the Civil War. Things were pretty divisive for a while there.
This is all good food for thought these days, as recent events on the national stage over the 2010 health care law show there’s a remarkable disconnect amongst Americans about our national identity and course of this country. It seems the arguing never ends.
That’s really nothing new, though. “Freedom” for American colonists back in the mid-18th century meant division from British rule and taxation — simple enough. But the passage of time really tends to idealize things. In reality, by most guesses probably less than half of Americans were willing to publicly support the rebellion, and fewer still took things so far as to take up arms against the crown. There was a rather sizable contingent of colonists who were opposed to the idea completely, and plenty of folks who disassociated themselves from the matter. The debate was intense, and it lasted years.