By Chris Stirewalt | Fox News
A PATRIOT’S ALMANAC
One of the things that makes “When Harry Met Sally” one of the most charming films of its kind are the interviews with older married couples at the end.
White-haired and maybe a little feeble, these couples tell the story of their beginning. From such small things, many great things descend.
A nation is no different. For the British its King Arthur and Camelot. For Italy it’s Romulus and Remus. For the Russians it is Kievan Rus. And, like any couple, there are varying degrees of accuracy in those origin tales.
Americans are lucky in many ways, not the least of which is that our own story of becoming is pretty close to the real thing.
We will celebrate this weekend American independence from Britain. But of course, we weren’t really independent because some fellows in breeches sweating it out in Philadelphia said so. Real independence wouldn’t come until the Treaty of Paris, or maybe even until the end of the War of 1812.
But neither can we deny that the words set down in the summer of 1776 really were the beginning of us. The American creed ad memorialized by Thomas Jefferson in our declaration changed the trajectory of world history.
“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,” our forefathers pledged, “that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Yes, it is true that our Founders were flawed people, just as all men and women are. It is also true that they did not equally distribute those blessings of liberty among all God’s children. If we were writing that declaration today – assuming somehow we found the patriotic love and fellow feeling necessary to do so – it would sound very different.
But that doesn’t mean that we should not celebrate the heroic achievements of our founding. In fact, these celebrations are crucial to our ability to maintain our birthright as Americans.
The origin story of our superhero nation does not start in the icy peaks of Krypton or the dark alleys of Gotham City, but there in Independence Hall. To understand what we must do now and prepare for what we must do next it is essential for us to understand how we came to be.
To that end, we are providing you with a brief primer on some of the ideas of our founding. We hope that you will find it inspiring, funny, sobering and useful. We know it was for us as we compiled it.
The Halftime Report will be on an Independence Day break until Monday.
In the meantime, you can enjoy our Independence Day installment of “Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What” in which you’ll get Dana’s musings on how the Founders would have felt about electric scooters (no, really) and a hearty dose of revolutionary trivia.
Bust most of all, rejoice! This is no solemn occasion but rather a cause for uproarious celebration. The success of our revolution was itself improbable. That it would produce the greatest republic in human history – that has stood for more than 230 years – would have sounded preposterous at the time.
We are all heirs to this magnificent bounty, so this weekend celebrate like you mean it.
ON PRESERVING OUR ENDOWMENT OF LIBERTY
“All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” – Abraham Lincoln in his speech “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” at the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838
“The Nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a Master and deserves one.” – Alexander Hamilton writing in the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser, February 21, 1797
“A lot of people think America can’t cut the mustard any more… well when you’ve been kicked in the head like we have, you learn pretty quick to put first thing first.” – Lee Iacocca, then-CEO of Chrysler, in a 1984 television ad
“Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”
“Our Union is now complete; our Constitution composed, established, and approved. You are now the guardians of your own liberties: We may justly address you as the decemviri did the Romans, and say: ‘Nothing that we propose can pass into a law without your consent. Be yourselves, O Americans, the authors of those laws on which your happiness depends.’” – Samuel Adams,in a speech in Philadelphia, August 1, 1776
“Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier. I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me.” – Sojourner Truth, The New York World, May 13, 1867
ON THE GENIUS OF THE FOUNDERS
“What manner of men they were, what was the character of their leadership, was attested only in part by Saratoga and Yorktown. Washington had displayed great power on many fields of battle, the colonists had suffered long and endured to the end, but the glory of military power fades away beside the picture of the victorious general, returning his commission to the representatives of a people who would have made him king, and retiring after two terms from the Presidency which he could have held for life, and the picture of a war worn people turning from debt, disorder, almost anarchy, not to division, not to despotism, but to national unity under the ordered liberty of the Federal Constitution.” – Then-Massachusetts Gov. Calvin Coolidge in a March 15, 1918 speech to his fellow alumni of Amherst College
“May our children and our children’s children to a thousand generations, continue to enjoy the benefits conferred upon us by a united country, and have cause yet to rejoice under those glorious institutions bequeathed us by Washington and his compeers.”– Abraham Lincoln, October 4, 1862 speech at Frederick, Md.
“From that point various things continued to happen until July 4, 1776 when the Founding Fathers celebrated the Fourth of July by signing the Declaration of Independence, a sacred document that is kept in a secure, climate-controlled vault in the National Archives at all times except for a couple of instances where the Clinton administration let campaign donors wear it to parties as a hat” – Dave Barry in “Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway”
“Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.” – Samuel Francis Smith, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” 1831
ON THE REVOLUTION AS A FUCRUM OF HISTORY
“The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government…” – George Washington, Circular to the States, June 8, 1783
“Through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means.” – John Adams in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 2, 1776
“We are called the nation of inventors. And we are. We could still claim that title and wear its loftiest honors if we had stopped with the first thing we ever invented, which was human liberty.” – Mark Twain,in his Foreign Critics speech, 1890
“By the principles of the Declaration of Independence, majority rule in a free society is not an end in itself, nor is it a source of the purposes served by free government. Majority rule exists to secure the rights with which all human persons are ‘endowed by their Creator.’ The recognition of the origin of these rights, in God and nature, comes before any action of any majority.” – Harry V. Jaffa, “Bush’s Lincolnian Challenge”
“If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.” – Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address, Jan. 20, 1981
“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.” –Benjamin Franklin in The New-England Courant 1722
“The happiness of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind; she is destined to become the safe and venerable asylum of virtue, of honesty, of tolerance, and quality and of peaceful liberty.” – Marquis de Lafayette in a letter to his wife is wife in April 1777
ON THE DUTIES OF LIBERTY
“The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American Democracy. For with primacy in power is also joined an awe inspiring accountability to the future. If you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement.” – Winston Churchill, in his speech “The Sinews of Peace,” March 5, 1946 at Westminster College, Fulton, Mo.
“All honor to Jefferson – to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.” – Abraham Lincoln in an April 6, 1859 letter replying to an invitation to speak at a celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday in Boston
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
“In America, we are blessed with the freedom to speak our minds – and we should do so thoughtfully. We also have to recognize that people who disagree with us are not enemies. We’re all in this together – and we should act like it.” – Dana Perino, “And the Good News Is…”
ON THE AMERICAN CHARACTER
“When one takes a broad survey of the country, he will find that the most useful and influential people in it are those who take the deepest interest in institutions that exist for the purpose of making the world better.” – Booker T. Washington, “Up From Slavery”
“You ever eat so much you feel sick? Isn’t that the best? Then you feel like a real American.” – Jim Gaffigan, “Beyond the Pale,” 2005
“This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.” – Will Rogers writing in his newspaper column, November 1, 1932
“No one party can fool all of the people all of the time. That’s why we have two parties.” – Bob Hope
“But America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry Truman, The President’s First Economic Report, Jan. 8, 1947
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“America is the only country ever founded on an idea. The only country that is not founded on race or even common history. It’s founded on an idea and the idea is liberty. That is probably the rarest phenomena in the political history of the world; this has never happened before. And not only has it happened, but it’s worked.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018)
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report.