Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are all unalienable rights as set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson and our nation’s Founders, however, did not see them as equal.
In their minds, Liberty reigned supreme — and for good reason. They saw Liberty as the well-spring of all rights and, therefore, paramount. Indeed, the life they wanted to live, and the pursuit of happiness, were dependent upon it.
The Founders understood liberty is what brought the greatest opportunity to the masses, not the elite. For individuals and nations to reach full potential, they posited, liberty is essential. They meant it when they wrote, in the preamble of our Constitution, among its purposes was to, “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”.
Those blessing would multiple and become pervasive, they believed.
History has proven them to be correct.
America’s first principle has brought abundant blessings, and not just to us but to people around the globe. Wealth creation, inventions galore, greater opportunities for the most people, longer lives, better quality of life, advances in health care, freedom of religion, limited government, higher standards of living, right to travel, right to try, right to risk are among the blessings of liberty we have seen over the last 244 years.
Cleon Skousen, author of The 500 Year Leap, was correct when he attributed all these advances as the offspring of Liberty and a government set up to its defense. Americans have understood for two centuries that the proper role of government is to protect our rights with liberty at the helm. (Ever heard of the liberty train on our 200th year anniversary?) We have been able to unleash the creative genius of mankind; we have been part of an explosion of progress.
Our Founders fought long and hard for this birthright. They understood the sacrifice and cost of freedom. It is clear from the quotes and examples of Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, Joseph Warren, James Otis and others that, in the hierarchy of principles, liberty was second-to-none.
It is evident that every signatory to the Declaration of Independence subordinated their lives and fortunes to liberty. And, they understood why this had to be the rule. In today’s parlance, they, “walked- the-talk,” and their example became an infectious virus known as the “Spirit of ’76”.
Do we have that spirit today? Maybe, some. As a nation, no.
The Founders understood how easily this could happen if we did not jealously guard our liberty and keep it as our highest principle.
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it,” said John Adams, fearing that day might come.
Turns out, they were well-founded.
Inheriting freedom can be like inheriting wealth, Adams understood. Both can corrupt without proper perspective, gratitude, education, and wisdom.
Often, those who benefit from wealth or freedom lack the appreciation of the sacrifices that went into its acquisition.
Among their traits, they:
- Take for granted what they have;
- Lack a solid work ethic
- Are unable to keep it;
- Use it to their own destruction;
- Don’t have the knowledge to get it back, once lost;
- Don’t have the foresight to see the consequences of what will happen when it is lost.
George Washington grasped this, understanding that we must, unfortunately, “feel before we see”.
Just as many colonists had to feel the heavy boot of England’s governance before they converted to the cause; so, too, will many in this day, only become lovers of liberty after the effects of losing it are harshly felt.
History has shown liberty lost is seldom regained, at least by the same people who lost it. Adams thought it never to be regained. “Liberty once lost, is lost forever,” he said.
Right now, we are in a monumental battle for liberty and our republic. If you can’t see that, I can’t help you.
Do you want to govern yourselves or be governed?
The question is as simple as the one we had to answer as a new nation many generations ago.
Our Founders bequeathed us liberty and the pearl of great price it truly is. What legacy will we bequeath? Freedom is not a spectator sport.
If you think you can hide, take no part in the current struggle and bare no responsibility for the outcome, you are sorely mistaken.
Speak up, now, so you can look your children in the eye and let them know you did all you could.
Jeff Utsch, of Tucson, AZ, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and can heard on iHeart Radio’s Podcast, Constitutional Conversations, with KFYI 550-AM host James T Harris, of The Conservative Circus.