Independence Hall Oil PaintingJames Wilson’s Oration Delivered on the Fourth of July 1788, at the Procession Formed at Philadelphia to Celebrate the Adoption of the Constitution of the United States.

Abridged Audio Version:


Full Speech Text

My Friends and Fellow Citizens, Your candid and generous indulgence I may well bespeak, for many reasons. I shall mention but one. While I express it, I feel it, in all its force. My abilities are unequal—abilities far superior to mine would be unequal—to the occasion, on which I have the honor of being called to address you.

A people, free and enlightened, ESTABLISHING and RATIFYING a system of government, which they have previously CONSIDERED, EXAMINED and APPROVED! this is the spectacle, which we are assembled to celebrate; and it is the most dignified one that has yet appeared on our globe. Numerous and splended have been the triumphs of conquerors. From what causes have they originated? Of what consequences have they been productive? They have generally begun in ambition: They have generally ended in tyranny. But no thing tyrannical can participate of dignity; and to Freedom’s eye, SESOSTRIS himself appears contemptible, even when he treads on the necks of Kings.

The Senators of Rome, seated in their curule chairs, and surrounded with all their official lustre, were an object much more respectable; and we view, without displeasure, the admiration of those untutored savages, who considered them as so many gods upon earth. But who were those Senators? They were only a part of a society: They were vested with only inferior powers.

What is the object exhibited to our contemplation? a WHOLE PEOPLE exercising its first and greatest power—performing an act of SOVEREIGNTY, ORIGINAL and UNLIMITED.

The scene before us is unexampled as well as magnificent. The greatest part of governments have been the deformed offspring of force and fear. With these we deign not comparison. But there have been others who have formed bold pretentions to higher regard. You have heard of SPARTA, of ATHENS and of ROME. You have heard of their admired constitutions, and of their high prized freedom. In fancied right of these, they conceived themselves to be elevated above the rest of the human race, whom they marked with the degrading title of Barbarians. But did they, in all their pomp and pride of liberty, ever furnish to the astonished world an exhibition similar to that, which we now contemplate? Were their constitutions framed by those, who were appointed for that purpose, by the people? After they were framed, were they submitted to the consideration of the people? Had the people an opportunity of expressing their sentiments concerning them? Were they to stand or fall by the people’s approving or rejecting vote? To all these questions attentive and impartial history obliges us to answer in the negative. The people were either unfit to be trusted; or their lawgivers were too ambitious to trust them.

The far-famed establishment of LYCURGUS was introduced by deception and fraud. Under the specious pretence of consulting the oracle concerning his laws, he prevailed on the SPARTANS to make a temporary experiment of them during his absence, and to swear that they would suffer no alteration of them till his return. Taking a disingenuous advantage of their scrupulous regard for their oaths, he prevented his return by a voluntary death; and in this manner endeavoured to secure a proud immortality to his system.

Even SOLON—the mild and moderating SOLON—far from considering himself as employed only to propose such regulations as he should think best calculated for promoting the happiness of the commonwealth, made and promulgated his laws with all the haughty airs of absolute power. On more occasions than one, we find him boasting, with much self complacency, of his extreme forbearance and condescension, because he did not establish a despotism in his own favor, and because he did not reduce his equals to the humiliating condition of his slaves.

Did NUMA submit his institutions to the good sense and free investigation of ROME? They were received in precious communications from the goddess EGERIA, with whose presence and regard he was supremely favored; and they were imposed on the easy faith of the citizens as the Dictates of an inspiration that was divine.

Such, my fellow citizens, was the origin of the most splendid establishments that have been hitherto known; and such were the arts, to which they owed their introduction and success.

What a flattering contrast arises from a retrospect of the scenes which we now commemorate? Delegates were appointed to deliberate and to propose. They met, and performed their delegated trust. the result of their deliberations was laid before the people. It was discussed and scrutinized in the fullest, freest and severest manner, –by speaking, by writing and by printing–by individuals and by public bodies,–by its friends and by its enemies. What was the issue? Most favourable and most glorious to the system. In state after state, at time after time, it was ratified–in some states unanimously—on the whole, by a large and very respectable majority.

It would be improper now to examine its qualities. A decent respect for those who have accepted of it will lead us to presume that it is worthy of their acceptance. The deliberate ratifications, which have taken place, at once recommend the system, and the people by whom it has been ratified.

By why—methinks I hear some one say—why is so much exultation displayed in celebrating this event? We are prepared to give the reasons of our joy. We rejoice, because, under this constitution, we hope to see just government, and to enjoy the blessings that walk in its train.

Let us begin with PEACE—the mild and modest harbinger of felicity! How seldom does the amiable wanderer chuse, for her permanent residence, the habitations of men! In their systems she sees too many arrangements, civil and ecclesiastical, inconsistent with the calmness and benignity of her temper. In the old world, how many millions of men do we behold, unprofitable to society, burthensome to industry, the props of establishments that deserve not to be supported, the causes of distrust in the times of peace,—and the instruments of destruction in the times of war? Why are they not employed in cultivating useful arts, and in forwarding public improvements? Let us indulge the pleasing expectation, that such will be the operation of government in the UNITED STATES. Why may we not hope, that, disentangled from the intrigues and jealousies of European politics, and unmolested with the alarm and solicitude, to which these intrigues and jealousies give birth, our councils will be directed to the encouragement, and our strength will be exerted in the cultivation of the arts of peace?

Of these, the first is AGRICULTURE. This is true in all countries. In the UNITED STATES its truth is of peculiar importance. The subsistence of man, the materials of manufactures, the articles of commerce—all spring originally from the soil. On agriculture, therefore, the wealth of nations is founded. Whether we consult the observations that reason will suggest, or attend to the information that history will give, we shall, in each case, be satisfied of the influence of government, good or bad, upon the state of agriculture. In a government, whose maxims are those of oppression, property is insecure. It is given, it is taken away, by caprice. Where there is no security for property, there is no encouragement for industry. Without industry, the richer the soil the more it abounds with weeds. The evidence of history warrants the truth of these general remarks. Attend to Greece; and compare her agriculture in ancient and in modern times. THEN, smiling harvests bore  testimony to the bountiful boons of liberty. Now, the very earth languishes under oppression. View the Compania of ROME. How melancholy the prospect? Which ever way you turn your afflicted eyes, scenes of desolation crowd before them. Waste and barrenness appear around you in all their hideous forms. What is the reason? With DOUBLE tyranny the land is cursed. Open the classic page: you trace, in chaste description, the beautiful reverse of every thing you have seen. Whence proceeds the difference? When that description was made, the force of liberty pervaded the soil.

But is agriculture the only art, which feels the influence of government? Over MANUFACTURES and COMMERCE its power is equally prevalent. There the same causes operate; and there they produce the same effects. The industrious village, the busy city, the crowded port—all these are the gifts of liberty; and without a good government liberty cannot exist.

These are advantages, but these are not all the advantages that result from a system of good government. Agriculture, manufactures and commerce will ensure to us plenty, convenience and elegance. But is there not something still wanting to finish the man? Are internal virtues and accomplishments less estimable or less attracting than external arts and ornaments? Is the operation of government less powerful upon the former than upon the latter? By no means. Upon this, as upon a preceding topic, reason and history will concur in their information and advice. In a serene mind the SCIENCES and the VIRTUES love to dwell. But can the mind of a man be serene, when the property, liberty and subsistence of himself, and of those, for whom he feels more than he feels for himself, depends on a tyrant’s nod? If the dispirited subject of oppression can, with difficulty, exert his enfeebled faculties, so far as to provide, on the incessant demands of nature, food just enough to lengthen out his wretched existence; can it be expected, that, in such a state, he will experience those fine and vigorous movements of the soul, without the full and free exercise of which science and virtue will never flourish. Look around you to the nations that now exist. View, in historic retrospect, the nations that have heretofore existed. The collected result will be an entire conviction of these all-interesting truths—Where tyranny reins, there is the COUNTRY of IGNORANCE and VICE—Where GOOD GOVERNMENT prevails there is the COUNTRY of SCIENCE and VIRTUE. Under a good government, therefore, we must look for the accomplished man.

But shall we confine our views even here? While we wish to be accomplished men and citizens, shall we wish to be nothing more? While we perform our duty, and promote our happiness in this world; shall we bestow no regards upon the next? Does no connexion subsist between the two? From this connexion flows the most important of all the blessings of good government. But here let us pause—unassisted reason can guide us no farther, she directs us to that HEAVEN-DESCENDED SCIENCE, by which LIFE and IMMORTALITY have been brought to light.

May we now say, that we have reason for our joy? But while we cherish the delightful emotion, let us remember those things which are requisite to give it permanence and stability. Shall we lie supine, and look, in listless langour, for those blessings and enjoyments, to which exertion is inseparably attached? If we would be happy; we must be active. The Constitution and our manners must mutually support and be supported. Even on the Festivity, it will not be disagreeable or incongruous to review the virtues and manners that both justify and adorn it.

FRUGALITY and TEMPERANCE first attract our attention. These simple but powerful virtues are the sole foundation, on which a good government can rest with security. They were the virtues which nursed and educated infant ROME, and prepared her for all her greatness. But in the giddy hour of her prosperity, she spurned from her the obscure instruments, by which it was procured; and in their place substituted luxury and dissipation. The consequence was such as might have been expected. She preserved, for some time, a gay and flourishing appearance; but the internal health and soundness of her constitution were gone. At last she fell, a victim to the poisonous draughts, which were administered by her perfidious favourites. The fate of Rome, both in her rising and in her falling state, will be the fate of every other nation that shall follow both parts of her example.

INDUSTRY appears next among the virtues of a good citizen. Idleness is the nurse of villains. The industrious alone constitute a nation’s strength. I will not expatiate on this fruitful subject. Let one animating reflection suffice. In a well constituted commonwealth, the industry of every citizen extends beyond himself. A common interest pervades the society. EACH gains from ALL, and ALL gain from EACH. It has often been observed, that the sciences flourish all together: The remark applies equally to the arts.

Your patriot feelings attest to the truth of what I say, when, among the virtues necessary to merit and preserve the advantages of a good government, I number a warm and uniform ATTACHMENT to LIBERTY, and to the CONSTITUTION. The enemies of liberty are artful and insiduous. A counterfeit steals her dress, imitates her manner, forges her signature, assumes her name. But the real name of the deceiver is Licentiousness. Such is her effrontery, that she will charge liberty to her face with imposture; and she will, with shameless front, insist that herself alone is the genuine character, and that herself alone is entitled to the respect, which the genuine character deserves. With the giddy and undiscerning, on whom a deeper impression is made by dauntless impudence than by modest merit, her pretensions are often successful. She receives the honors of liberty, and liberty herself is treated as a traitor and an usurper. Generally, however, this bold impostor acts only a secondary part. Though she alone appear, upon the stage, her motions are regulated by dark ambition, who sits concealed behind the curtain, and who knows that despotism, his OTHER favourite, can always follow the success of licentiousness. Against these enemies of liberty, who act in concert, though they appear on opposite sides, the patriot citizen will keep a watchful guard.

A good constitution is the greatest blessing, which a society can enjoy. Need I infer, that it is the duty of every citizen to use his best and most unremitting endeavours for preserving it pure, healthful and vigorous? For the accomplishment of this great purpose, the exertions of no one citizen are unimportant. Let no one, therefore, harbour, for a moment, the mean idea, that he is and can be of no value to his country. Let the contrary manly impression animate his soul. Every one can, at many times, perform to the state, useful services; and he, who steadily pursues the road of patriotism, has the most inviting prospect of being able, at some times, to perform eminent ones.

Allow me to direct your attention, in a very particular manner, to a momentous part, which by this constitution, every citizen will frequently be called to act. All those in places of power and trust will be elected either immediately by the people; or in such a manner that their appointment will depend ultimately on such immediate election. All the derivative movements of government must spring from the original movement of the people at large. If, to this, they give a sufficient force and a just direction, all the others will be governed by its controuling power. To speak without a metaphor; if the people, at their elections, take care to chuse none but representatives that are wise and good; their representatives will take care, in their turn, to chuse or appoint none but such as are wise and good also. The remark applies to every succeeding election and appointment. Thus the characters proper for public officers will be diffused from the immediate elections of the people over the remotest parts of administration. Of what immense consequence is it, then, that this PRIMARY duty should be faithfully and skillfully discharged? On the faithful and skillful discharge of it the public happiness or infelicity, under this and every other constitution, must, in a very great measure, depend. For, believe me, no government, even the best, can be happily administered by ignorant or vicious men. You will forgive me, I am sure, for endeavouring to impress upon your minds, in the strongest manner, the importance of this great duty. It is the first connection in politics; and if an error is committed here, it can never be corrected in any subsequent process: The certain consequence must be disease. Let no one say, that he is but a single citizen; and that his ticket will be but one in the box. That one ticket may turn the election. In battle, every soldier should consider the public safety as depending on his single arm. At an election, every citizen should consider the public happiness as depending on his single vote.

A PROGRESSIVE STATE is necessary to the happiness and perfection of Man. Whatever attainments are already reached, attainments still higher should be pursued. Let us, therefore, strive with noble emulation. Let us suppose we have done nothing, while any thing yet remains to be done. Let us, with fervent zeal, press forward, and make unceasing advances in every thing that can SUPPORT, IMPROVE, REFINE or EMBELISH Society.

To enter into particulars under each of these heads, and to dilate them according to their importance, would be improper at this time. A few remarks on the last of them will be congenial with the entertainments of this auspicious day.

If we give the slightest attention to NATURE, we shall discover that with utility she is curious to blend ornament. Can we imitate a better pattern? Public exhibitions have been the favorite amusements of some of the wisest and most accomplished nations. GREECE, in her most shining era, considered her games as far from being the least respectable among her public establishments. The shows of the Circus evince, that, on this subject, the sentiments of GREECE were fortified by those of ROME.

Public processions may be so planned and executed, as to join both the properties of Nature’s rule. They may instruct and improve, while they entertain and please. They may point out the elegance or usefulness of the sciences and the arts. They may preserve the memory, and engrave the importance of great political events. They may represent, with peculiar felicity and force, the operation and effects of great political truths. The picturesque and splendid decorations around me furnish the most beautiful and most brilliant proofs, that these remarks are FAR FROM BEING IMAGINARY.

The commencement of our Government has been eminently glorious: Let our progress in every excellence be proportionably great. It will, it must be so. What an enraptured prospect opens on the UNITED STATES! Placid HUSBANDRY walks in front, attended by the venerable plough. Lowing herds adorn our vallies: Bleating flocks spread o’er our hills, Verdant meadows, enameled pastures, yellow harvests, bending orchards, rise in rapid succession from east to west. PLENTY, with her copious horn, sits easy-smiling, and in conscience complacency, enjoys and presides over the scenes. COMMERCE next advances, in all her splendid and embellished forms. The rivers and lakes and seas are crouded with ships. Their shores are covered with cities. The cities are filled with inhabitants. The ARTS, decked with elegance, yet with simplicity, appear in beautiful variety, and welladjusted arrangement. Around them are diffused, in rich abundance, the necessaries, the decencies and the ornaments of life. With heartfelt contentment, INDUSTRY beholds his honest labors flourishing and secure. PEACE walks serene and unalarmed over all the unmolested regions; while LIBERTY, VIRTUE and RELIGION go hand in hand harmoniously, protecting, enlivening and exalting all! HAPPY COUNTRY! MAY THY HAPPINESS BE PERPETUAL.


Manifest Destiny, The Gadsden Purchase, Land Grabs, Border Issues, and “Spotty Lincoln”

Manifest-Destiny-DoctrineOn this day, June 29, 1853, the Gadsden Purchase was made. The Gadsden Purchase ended a sequence of land-grabs from Mexico which were inspired by a religious doctrine and the desire to expand slavery. However, a Whig Representative from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, opposed the land-grab. His opposition earned him the nick-name,“Spotty Lincoln,” and he was labeled, “Unpatriotic.”

The Great Charter: The First Great Step Toward Constitutional Liberty

King John Magna ChartaThe Great Charter: The First Great Step Toward Constitutional Liberty – By Daniel Sheridan (Twitter:@DanielWSheridan #History #OnThisDay #Constitution)

June 15, 1215, should be remembered by Americans because it marks the first great step and the subsequent development of the system of representative government, constitutionalism, and the principles of individual liberty, all of which became more perfectly expressed in the U.S. Constitution and its amendments. Here’s the story:

English kings ruled oppressively during the early Middle Ages. Neither the nobles nor the people had any voice in the affairs of state. The nobles despised the absolute rule of the king while the common people resented the high taxes. The clergy, the nobles, and the middle class concluded that the only way they could fix the problem was by banding together. When one of their worst Kings, John, came to the throne, they decided to act.

John was dishonest, treacherous, and hated by all classes. The King seemed to be at war with everyone: he overtaxed the common people, quarreled with his vassals, and fought with the Pope. John also engaged in a war with the king of France in which he lost many English possessions. The people, suffering from tyranny and oppressive taxes, refused to help John.

With this long history of transgressions, John added this one, probably his worst, above them all; he imprisoned his liberty loving subjects who objected to his arbitrary rule – without trial! Many of these poor souls rotted in filthy dungeons for years. —– Pause for a moment here: think about what it cost our forefathers to secure for us the right of trial by jury.

The nobles had enough! They decided their only option was to compel John to restore their liberties. On this day, June 15, 1215, armed barons gathered together at Runnymede, and forced King John to sign the Magna Charta, the Great Charter. It was a long document setting forth limitations on arbitrary power, drafted by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, and a committee of noblemen.

Here’s the Great Charter in a nutshell:

First, it assured the freedom of the church; Second, the feudal rights and privileges of the nobility were respected; Third, it forbade the king from extorting money from the people in the form of fines, taxes, or any other tricky measures, without first consulting the barons; Fourth, the king couldn’t arbitrarily toss people in prison, they were to receive a speedy trial by a jury; Fifth, the accused couldn’t be tried or punished more than once for the same offense; Sixth, it prohibited the king from taking a freeman’s property or banish him without just cause; Seventh, the king was forced to allow the nobles to appoint a committee to keep an eye on him and punish him if he violated the charter.

Trial by jury is one of the outstanding features of this charter. This is what led Sir William Blackstone to predict immortality for the British Constitution:

“Greece fell, Rome fell, Venice fell; the Republics of modern times, that hovered around classic Italy, fell; but England will endure; for trial by jury will make the liberties of Englishmen eternal.”

Tyrants hate restraints. And, as you can guess, John, and his successor, Henry the 3rd, violated the charter, thus causing civil wars and a constitutional crisis. But these upheavals led to the establishment of the Parliament, in 1295, in which a system of representation was set up.

The first steps in the right direction toward constitutional liberty were now taken. The Magna Charta was a ground breaking precedent. Here’s what followed:

  1. Representative Government: Simon’s Parliament assembled in 1265 – that’s where the first House of Commons sat; Edward’s Parliament, called the Model Parliament, sat in 1295.
  2. Liberty Based Charters: The Petition of Right (1626); The Habeas Corpus Act (1679); The English Bill of Rights (1689).
  3. The Common Law: The above charters declared the principles, but it was the Common Law that expounded them. One scholar says of the common law,

“That law was the growth of many centuries; its maxims were those of a sturdy and independent race of men, who were accustomed in an unusual degree to freedom of thought and action, and to a share in the administration of public affairs. So far as they declared individual rights, they were a part of the constitution of the realm, and of that “law of the land” the benefit of which was promised by the charter of King John to every freeman. They were modified and improved from age to age, by changes in the habits of thought and action among the people, by modifications in the civil and political state, by the vicissitudes of public affairs, by judicial decisions, and by statutes. The colonists claimed that this code of law accompanied them, as a standard of right and of protection in their emigration, and that it remained their law, excepting as in some particulars it was found unsuited to their circumstances in the New World. Relying upon it, they had well known and well defined rules of protection; without it, they were at the mercy of those who ruled, and, whether actually oppressed or not, were without freedom.”

Let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this article. These dates and charters should be remembered by Americans because they mark the first great steps and the subsequent developments of the system of representative government, constitutionalism, and the principles of individual liberty, all of which became more perfectly expressed in the U.S. Constitution and its’ amendments.


The Story of the First Stars and Stripes

Flag Day_Vintage

The Story of the First Stars and Stripes – By Daniel Sheridan

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress authorizes the “stars and stripes” flag for the new United States.

On the right of the provided photo is the British Union Jack with the red cross of St. George and the Scottish white cross of St. Andrew. The flag on the left was used by General George Washington at Cambridge in January, 1776.

The flag in the middle, our “stars and stripes,” was adopted by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The British Union was exchanged for a Union of 13 States, represented by white stars on a blue background. Below this flag is the Washington family coat of arms with a Latin phrase meaning, “The event justifies the deed.”

The “Stars and Stripes” now represented the United States in their struggle for freedom. It was first flown on August 6, 1777. The story behind this event illustrates what America is about – freedom, courage, and ingenuity. Here’s what happened:

On August 3, 1777, British Colonel St. Leger, leading an expedition consisting of Loyalists and Indians, laid siege to Fort Stanwix, a log fortification held by two New York Regiments. The American Patriot, General Herkimer, knowing the Americans couldn’t withstand a siege for long, raised a militia of 800 men and went to the aid of his fellow patriots.

Herkimer and his band, however, were ambushed Near Oriskany, New York, by the Mohawk chieftain, Joseph Brant. The battle was one of the most gruesome of the war as the Militia, Royalists, and Mohawks became so intermingled that the battle turned into hand to hand combat, men wrestling with bayonet, hatchet, and hunting knife in hand. Brave men fell in the forest, as one writer put it, “with their left hands clenched in each other’s hair, their right grasping, in a grip of death, the knife plunged in each other’s bosom.” General Herkimer, as he lay dying from a mortal wound, continued to encourage and order his men until his last breath.

The battle still raging, men from the American garrison executed a daring move which successfully drove the enemy away. The Patriots, having heard of Herkimer’s fate, returned to the fort with prisoners, spoils of war, and five enemy flags.

The garrison didn’t have a flag when the battle began, but after returning from their victory they improvised one on the spot with the materials at hand. The white stripes were made of cut-up shirts, the red of pieces of scarlet cloth sewed together, and the blue background for the stars was made from a coat. Historian John Fiske describes the scene:

“This rude flag, hastily extemporized out of a white shirt, an old blue jacket, and some strips of red cloth from the petticoat of a soldier’s wife, was the first American flag with stars and stripes that was ever hoisted, and it was first flung to the breeze on the memorable day of Oriskany, August 6, 1777.”

Bancroft says,

“It was the first time that a captured banner floated under the stars and stripes.”

That’s the origin of the American flag: courage, ingenuity, and the principles of liberty which are the basis of our American Republic. Patriotism is devotion to Principles. A Patriot knows the Principles of Freedom, promotes them, and defends them. Thomas Jefferson described this quality as “the virtue, intelligence and patriotism of the people.”



The American Presidency

President Trump

On President Trump’s 72nd Birthday, let’s celebrate the office our Constitution created.

Happy President’s Day! – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

“To the memory of the Man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

These are the words of Henry Lee upon the death of our first President, George Washington. Americans throughout the 1800s, cherishing these words, unofficially and spontaneously celebrated the Father of their Country’s birthday every February 22, his actual birthday. President Rutherford B. Hayes, in 1879, signed a law making the day an official holiday, and it became a national federal holiday in 1885. The day was simply known as Washington’s Birthday.

The holiday has changed in two ways since President Hayes signed it into law. First, it has become a “celebration” of all American Presidents, the institution itself; second, it is celebrated every third Monday of February. Here’s how these changes came about.

Did you notice all the “President’s Day” sales ads? This is why the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February, to give us a three day weekend and provide a boost to the economy. The movement began in the 1960s with Illinois Senator Robert McClory, who would later work on the U.S. House Judicial Committee during the Watergate Scandal, when he took the lead in presenting the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This Act called for, among other things, the moving of the official celebrations of Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veteran’s Day to specific Mondays. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/STATUTE-82/pdf/STATUTE-82-Pg250-3.pdf

The Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1971.

Another reason the holiday was moved to the third Monday of February was Abraham Lincoln. There was no federal holiday honoring him and it was about time we did. But do we have two holidays in February, one for Washington and one for Lincoln? A practical solution was settled upon. Honest Abe was born on February 12, Washington on February 22, so instead of creating two separate holidays in the same month they combined both into one and re-named the day, Presidents’ Day.

Today we’ve come to celebrate, by custom, all the Presidents on this day, the institution itself. The original holiday was a spontaneous patriotic celebration the Father of our Country, the services he rendered to America in both war and in peace and the principles he stood for. Why do we celebrate today? Let me tell you my reasons:

The American Presidency: A shining example in victory, in loss, and even in shame.
—In Victory
The Constitution, when first written, placed no Presidential term-limits in Article Two. George Washington could have served as long as he wanted. Of all his noble acts of heroism, the greatest of these was arguably what he did at the end of his second Presidential term.
Washington knew the world was watching the American experiment with a critical and skeptical eye. Many thought we’d fall apart or go the way of European Monarchies and history proved that people in Washington’s position rarely, if ever, relinquish power. Washington, knowing history and knowing all eyes were upon him, gave the world something new to behold – he willingly stepping down after his second term. The great example of President Washington was not how he used power while in office, but how he relinquished it.
—In Defeat
Washington’s successor was John Adams. Adams ran for a second term in 1800. It was a hostile election and the first one in which the press played a huge role. The papers were full of awful characterizations of men who gave birth to this country. The very men who risked their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in times which tried men’s souls were now being portrayed, in speeches and in print, as the county’s greatest enemies, the country they created!
Adams lost becoming the first sitting President to be voted out of office. People were now concerned. History was full of examples, fresh ones, of violent transfers of power and tempers were hot in America after this nasty election! The campaign was one of the harshest ever! Many wondered if Adams would step down peacefully and others were worried about the possibility of bloodshed. The world was again watching.
John Adams accepted defeat and peacefully departed Washington. The first Presidential loss saw zero incidents of violence! This has become a shining example of a peaceful transfer of power which we witness every time a new President takes office. We owe John Adams a debt of gratitude for setting such a noble precedent.
—In Shame

It’s now the 1970s, Richard Nixon is president. It was uncovered that he was spying on the Democratic Party during the election. We know it as the Watergate Scandal. President Nixon had foolishly claimed about presidential power, “When the President does it that means it’s not illegal.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMt8qCl5fPk

That sounds like he’s claiming the divine right of kings! Congress wanted Nixon to turn over the tapes, Nixon said no. The Supreme Court voted unanimously to side with Congress. Nixon then resigned knowing the tapes would expose him.

Then on August 9th, 1974, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. Ford spoke to the country saying,
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”
—Article 2: A Shining Example In A World Violent Power Struggles
Washington stepped down willingly after two terms. Adams left peacefully after losing an election. Nixon resigned in the middle of his term amidst a scandal. All these were peaceful transfers of power.
In virtue, in loss, and even in shame, American institutions are shining examples in a world characterized by violent power struggles.
Happy President’s Day!

The Marquis de Lafayette and the Love of Liberty

LafayetteThe Marquis de Lafayette and the Love of Liberty (By Daniel Sheridan)

On Christmas night, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware with 2,500 men, marched over nine miles through a snowstorm, and surprised the British at Trenton taking 1,000 prisoners. Then on January 3rd, 1777, Washington performed another great maneuver marching around Cornwallis’s flank defeating the British in Princeton, after which Washington dug in at Morristown. This position threatened the British line of supplies and prevented them from crossing New Jersey to take Philadelphia; as a result, they stayed the next five months in New York.

These maneuvers convinced the world that the Americans were for real, and so was their leader, George Washington. The French thought, believing the Americans had a shot at beating the British, threw their support behind them.

The French and the British had recent dealings which turned out in favor of the British. The French wanted revenge and the American cause was the perfect opportunity to get even. It was a win-win for both the Americans and the French.

—In Comes Lafayette

Of all the French who aided the Americans, one man stands out – the not quite 20-year-old Marquis de Lafayette.

The French were slow, however, getting into the game. So Lafayette, unwilling to wait for his tardy government to act, fitted out a ship at his own expense and headed to America.

He arrived on our shores on this day, June 13, 1777.

Lafayette offered his services to Congress free of charge. Washington used Lafayette successfully throughout the war and he was wounded during the Battle of Brandywine. At last, Washington sent Lafayette to defend Virginia, a move which kept the British cooped up at Yorktown waiting for reinforcements. The rest is history.

—A Brotherhood of Liberty

When Lafayette first came to America the war seemed like a joke to most people throughout the world. How could these Americans, with no large manufacturing capabilities, take on the mighty British Empire? The Americans could barely make a single cannon! Yet Lafayette saw something special in the Americans, a secret weapon, more powerful than many cannons:

“Simplicity of manners, kindness, love of country and of liberty, and a delightful equality everywhere prevails…All the citizens are brethren. In America there are no poor, or even what we call peasantry.”

Lafayette knew the Americans could overcome their disadvantages because of the kind of people they were.

True, there are some inconsistencies with that statement when you consider slavery, a terrible thing. But, thankfully, that would be fixed later. Lafayette was commending the fact that the citizens considered themselves brethren.

If Lafayette came today, would he say those same things about us?

—Lafayette Returns to America: Liberty’s Fire Still Burning

Lafayette went back home after the war and returned again in 1824 to visit his adopted country. Back in 1777, Lafayette left a rich family to take up our cause. He could have stayed home and enjoyed his youth in comfort and ease; instead, Lafayette offered his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor in the cause of liberty. And now, almost 50 years later, he returns to the land he loves and served.

Lafayette’s welcome was overwhelming. The landscape of America changed greatly since Lafayette left, he looked different too. Lafayette was no longer a young man, he walked a lot slower, his hair was grey, and his brow was furrowed with age. When he first came to America he saw a few poorly organized colonies struggling for liberty, now his aged eyes are beholding a growing nation, respected all over the world, with growing cities, booming industries, and rapid westward expansion. But there was one thing that didn’t change in Lafayette or America– the love of liberty.

Lafayette visited every state receiving a hero’s welcome everywhere he went. Congress voted him $200,000 and land in Florida asking him to accept these as a payment for his services during the war. This was a great blessing to Lafayette since he lost his fortune in the horrors following the French Revolution.

In June of 1825, Lafayette attended one of the biggest events Boston ever held up till that time, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bunker Hill, at which he laid the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument.

After Lafayette’s 14 month visit, he boarded a ship called the “Brandywine”, named for the battle in which he was wounded, and returned to his native land.

The Marquis de Lafayette died on May 20, 1834, in Paris, France.