Thomas Jefferson and John Adams: Founding Fathers pass together on the 50th Fourth of July

Founding Fathers, political combatants and finally old-age companions: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams

Founding Fathers, political combatants and finally old-age companions: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams

As the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence drew near, twilight was fast approaching for two living American icons. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were dying. Former presidents both, of course, but more than that, the two had been catalysts at every major step in the formation and advancement of the infant United States: the arguments for freedom, the break from England, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolution, the Constitution, the early years of a new republic. But now the mortal sojourn was drawing to a close for these two men of immense capacity.

They had been invited to numerous Fourth of July celebrations in 1826, but each was too weak to attend any of them. Adams was asked for some thoughts that local leaders could share during the Quincy, Mass., festivities. “I will give you,” Adams proclaimed, “Independence forever!” When asked if would like to say anything else, he replied, “Not a word.”

Jefferson composed a letter that was shared widely across the country. He wrote, in part:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government…. All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God. These are the grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return to this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

Neither was expected to live to the Fourth, but both men did. As Adams lay breathing with great difficulty, efforts were made to make him more comfortable by changing his position. He awoke and, told that it was the Fourth, said clearly, “It is a great day. It is a good day.” Read more

Tonight on PBS: 'First Freedom' documentary by Utah filmmaker

“First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty,” a film by Utah filmmaker Lee Groberg on the history of religious liberty in America, airs tonight at 7 on KUED as well as on hundreds of PBS affiliates across the country.

Rob Owen of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that the 90-minute documentary “takes a look back at the religious rights America’s founding fathers intended through a mix of dramatic recreation – filmed in Colonial Williamsburg and elsewhere, mostly along the East Coast in historic, colonial settings – and interviews with contemporary historians.”

Click here to see a preview on the PBS website.

Owen featured “First Freedom” in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV Week. He writes, “While the notions of religious freedom and separation of church and state may seem like topics out of a musty history book, look no further than the most recent presidential election to see how the topic remains relevant.” Read more

Secede over pot and Obamacare? You're nuts

Ron Paul

Did you know that there are public petitions in all 50 states in support of secession? I didn’t, but former presidential candidate Ron Paul knows. He likes the idea that states should secede from the Union. He says he’s taking his cue from our Founding Fathers and argues that:

Secession is a deeply American principle…There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.

Paul goes on to say that the successful state ballot measures about marijuana will test federal powers and could lead to secession. He says the same thing about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion – even though the United States Supreme Court has already ruled against such federal powers. He says, “If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free.”

I think we can all agree that the Declaration of Independence is the American argument for justifiable secession. Read more

Mero: Why I am a conservative and not a libertarian

Below are the opening and closing remarks delivered by Sutherland Institute President Paul Mero Thursday during the 2012 Freedom Fest held in Las Vegas. He was part of a debate on the topic of whether LDS Church members (Mormons) should be conservative, liberal or libertarian. Mero succinctly outlines why (a) he is a conservative and (b) why he is not a libertarian.

Why I am a conservative

I am a conservative because I am a Latter-day Saint.

Authentic conservatism assures mankind that rights and responsibilities, by their very natures, are always in conflict, and it provides a reasonable way for free men to justly and peaceably resolve the two. It does so through a certain moral ecology – the inherent universality of the human person (in other words, a reasonable understanding of what it means to be a human being).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adheres to its own moral ecology: Human life is defined, purposeful and ordered; justification for any human action is based on that action’s accurate reflection of the human identity (that is, outward expressions of inherited traits as a literal child of God); and man’s happiness is largely dependent upon free-will choices that either conform to God’s will or not. Read more

Ruling on crosses is a threat to religious freedom


The use of religious symbols on public property will remain a controversial issue. The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case to determine whether 13 memorials for fallen Utah Highway Patrol troopers violate the First Amendment.

In a 19-page dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas sums up in his opening statement why passing on this case is a problem: “Today the Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles.” Thomas then reviews the intricacies of many cases related to the Establishment Clause and concludes that they remain “impenetrable” and “incapable of coherent explanation” and that “[i]t is difficult to imagine an area of the law more in need of clarity.”

Indeed, the Supreme Court may have been able to use the case of the Utah crosses to clarify this issue for courts and policymakers nationwide, but what of the merits of the case? Was the 10th Circuit’s ruling last December correct? Is the state endorsing Christianity by locating crosses on public property next to highways? Read more

Lessons on liberty from an Ethiopian taxi driver


Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia, Photo credit: CT Snow

On my way to the airport after a recent conference in Seattle, I had an interesting chat with a taxi driver. “Eddie” is originally from Ethiopia but has lived in the United States for the last seven years. He lived first in Aurora, Colo., but preferred Seattle because the climate and vegetation reminded him of the region where he grew up in Ethiopia.

I asked Eddie why there was often so much hunger in Ethiopia. He said it starts with severe drought, but is made much worse because of corruption. He said the government buys and stores crops from farmers, but then only resells them at exorbitant prices to those who can pay. Emergency food and supplies from other countries are confiscated by the government and rarely reach those who need them most. Read more

Faith, family, free markets: fertile ground for happiness


America’s founders believed that God endowed us with “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and “that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”

Let’s focus on the third unalienable right in that list: the pursuit of happiness. What is “happiness” and what can government do to protect our pursuit of it?

Certainly, each individual defines “happiness” a little differently, but research shows that some specific things tend to be a source of happiness for most people. Read more

Independence declared with beauty and civility


To prepare for our celebration of Independence Day, I took a minute to re-read the Declaration of Independence. One thing stood out especially to me as I read:

The beauty and civility of the language of our forefathers in this document cannot be overstated. Where else can you find a more logical, pointed, yet civil call for redress?  Many who claim to love our Founding Fathers and the documents they penned would do well to learn from this excellent example.

As we celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in this country, I invite you to take the time to read the Declaration of Independence, whose signing we commemorate today:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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