July 2018 Issue
by Caleb Talley
In July, we celebrate our great nation’s founding. More than 240 years ago, countless men and women risked it all when they made the decision to stand up in the face of a perceived injustice at the hands of a tyrannical ruler. They declared themselves independent.
No longer would they consider themselves English, or Colonists, subjects of the crown. They declared themselves Americans. And they did what they thought was right, fighting for their God-given right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It had to take an incredible amount of courage, an amount of courage that’s practically unfathomable by today’s standards. And that cool courage and determination some two-and-a-half centuries ago paid off.
But today, the revolutionaries and our nation’s founding fathers are frequently the target of criticism from many who, correctly, point out much of the perceived hypocrisy of our founders, many of whom fought for the natural rights of man while owning their own slaves.
It’s a fair criticism, one that shouldn’t be entirely written off. But in remembering our history, we can’t glaze over the lasting impact of the American Revolution as a force for both racial and economic equality – not just in the 18th century, but in the 240 years that followed.
Following the American Revolution, Pennsylvanian leaders, citing the revolution as inspiration, signed into law the emancipation of slaves. Over the next couple of years, similar emancipation acts were signed into law in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Slavery had existed virtually unchallenged on American soil for nearly two centuries, and the American Revolution changed that by ushering in unfurled rhetoric of natural rights.
The revolution didn’t end with the war or the 18th century. It set a standard by which the rest of American history would be measured. And every major battle for progress in the United States has been sewn together with the thread of our founders’ revolutionary rhetoric.
Early abolitionist Fredrick Douglass cited the Declaration of Independence in his effort to fulfill the revolution’s promise of racial emancipation. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, during the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, used portions of the Declaration of Independence in crafting the Declaration of Sentiments. In The Trumpet of Conscience, Martin Luther King Jr. heaped praise on the revolution. His 1963 speech at the March on Washington was filled with the rhetoric of freedom coming straight from the American Revolution.
President Abraham Lincoln credited all his civic work to the example laid out for him by our nation’s founders. “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence,” he once wrote.
The Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution may not have directly meant freedom and prosperity for a great number of Americans. That’s a hard truth. Instead, the path to progress has come from the embrace of what the revolution stood for and the American courage it put on display – the courage to stand up to an oppressor, to fight for liberty, even if it meant death.
The spirit of the revolution and the Declaration of Independence that it produced lives on in those who stand up for what’s right, act courageously and speak truth to power, regardless of consequence.
We could use a little more of that spirit today. The courage to do the right thing – whether it be in Washington, D.C., Little Rock or our own neighborhood – is in short supply.
It’s time for a shot in the arm. Rather than to reject the revolution our nation’s founders embarked on centuries ago, it’s time we resurrect it by fighting for the good in humanity, taking on the bullies. No more turning a blind eye to injustice. Look it in its face. Show courage. Do the right thing, even if it means poking the bear and drawing reproach from our peers or our party.
What better way to honor the sacrifices of our forefathers this Independence Day than to renew the emancipating spirit of the American Revolution?
This special Independence Day edition of Cash & Candor can be found in the July 2018 issue of Arkansas Money & Politics.