On a hot August day in 1985, Dick Brewster and Rod Compagna were installing a security system in the historic Ladd-Gilman House in Exeter, N.H. The Gilman family home dated back to colonial days; the Gilman family included a delegate to the original Constitutional Convention, and at least two U.S. Senators.
While tearing out the attic floor, they ran across an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence, printed on July 4, 1776 by Philadelphia printer John Dunlap. Only 200 of these were made for distribution to the colonies. The New Hampshire copy reached the state on July 16. Time was of the essence, since the Continental Congress had committed an act of treason against the Crown, and in so doing had signed their own death warrants.
The original Declaration of Independence would have been of little value had it not been distributed far and wide. The act of signing the document was brave by those who drafted and approved it; but the truly revolutionary (and punishable by death) act was dispatching the copies. Making a statement without following it up with action was then, as it is now, useless.
To win freedom, America had to fight a long, bloody war against the British, who were not wont to losing colonies to upstart revolutionaries. We fought the British again in 1812. Then we let liberty die.
Abolitionist Republican Abraham Lincoln’s victory over populist Stephen A. Douglas (who ramrodded the Missouri Compromise through Congress) sealed the south’s economic fate. But liberty’s fate was sealed long before that. A long, fruitless series of statements, compromises, heinous judicial miscarriages, and political deadlock killed freedom and liberty, such that by December 20, 1860, the State of South Carolina decided to leave the Union rather than suffer further political injury.
Nearly three years, and a half million deaths after southern secession, Lincoln asserted that the action of those men who fought upon the hallowed ground of Gettysburg would be able to resurrect the suffocated liberty of America.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Those 620,000 war dead in the Civil War died for the same death warrant that the Continental Congress signed.
The death warrant is still in effect 241 years later. Whenever liberty dies in the United States, men may be called upon to fight and die for its rebirth. Today we are seeing freedom take its last gasping breath in America. The 14th Amendment, written to guarantee liberty to slaves, has become a bush of thorns, from which a right to kill babies has emerged. It has also been used to justify overturning the sovereign will of free states to govern their own affairs as guaranteed by the Constitution with travesties such as Obergefell v. Hodges.
The basic right to be born and live as free moral agents, subservient to God and Natural Law alone has been abridged by a government withheld from absolute tyranny by only the smallest counterweight. And now that counterweight has broken.
Last year, we had a choice between two candidates, neither of whom was ideal (to be charitable). We now have a man leading America whose qualifications are no better than Enoch Poor‘s to lead troops at Breed’s Hill or Hugh Judson Kilpatrick‘s to command at Gettysburg.
Yet we must all pledge our sacred honor and our duty to defend our country, and its leaders.
If called upon to fight, we will because we have a duty to those who lived before us. When those signers of the Declaration of Independence signed their death warrants–and acted to send 200 copies to the furthest colonies to publicize the deed–240 years ago today, they also signed our death warrants.
Either Americans will answer when liberty calls from the grave, or America itself will die.