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Anno Domini: The Textbook of Freedom
July 03, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
As a writer, I always admire those who can tell a captivating story. One of those stories happened 238 years ago, when Divine Providence raised up a new nation that was meant to be a blessing and refuge for all the world. But somewhere along the way, we forgot the story.

An extremely talented man in California is recapturing that history. Our history. Fellow Irishman James Patrick Riley wrote, directed and acted in an independently produced television series called “Courage, New Hampshire.” It’s appeared on several public television stations around the country and has an intriguing premise.

Set in early 1770s New England, the series tells the story of “the road to revolution” through the eyes of the common folk. And some of the issues the colonists had to deal with are uncomfortably familiar today.

In one scene, attorney Abraham Foxe and justice of the peace Silas Rhodes (played by Riley) are discussing the latest Intolerable Act inflicted on the colonies by the Crown. Foxe tries to be somewhat apologetic with the excuse, “We don’t get to pick and chose which laws we obey.” And with the slightest hint of a sneer, Squire Rhodes quips, “Only the governor gets to do that.”

Anyone out there today choosing which laws they will obey? Hmm …

Colony Bay is the production website for the series. It’s well worth a look.

Yes, our Great American Experiment is now 238 years old. Meeting in Philadelphia on July 2, 1776, 56 men affixed their names to a 1,337 word document penned by Thomas Jefferson. It began with the words, “When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another …”

Several of the men were still squeamish about signing this Declaration of Independence. After all, they would be branded as traitors, and if caught would have their necks stretched.

But something happened that day, and here’s where another fascinating story worked its way into our folklore.

As the debate continued, an elderly man stood up unexpectedly. No one recognized him, but he summoned all his strength to list the many grievances the Crown had brought upon them. With a failing voice, he spoke. “They may turn every tree into a gallows, every hole into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die. To the mechanic in the workshop, they will speak hope, to the slave in the mines, freedom. Sign that parchment. Sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the Bible of the rights of man forever.”

The old man sat, exhausted. And 56 inspired men stepped forward to sign that parchment. But when they turned to thank the man for his timely oratory, he had vanished.

Probably just a fanciful story. But it’s in those stories where we find the self-evident truths of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

John Adams thought July 2 would be Independence Day, because that’s when he and the other delegates signed. But the declaration wasn’t officially read for the public until July 4.

In a July 2 letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams wrote the day should be “solemnized with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations.”

Adams also wrote the day “ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to Almighty God.”

Over the centuries, we remembered the pomp and parade, but forgot the rest – even though Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration of Independence is the “declaratory charter of our rights, and the rights of man.”

I can’t really blame the folks for their ignorance, as our founding documents are no longer taught in the majority of our schools.

In a real sense, July 4 didn’t just declare freedom for us, but for the entire world. Until then, history had recorded an almost endless parade of tin-pot dictators who ruled under the “divine right of kings.”

That tyranny was turned upside down when our founders trusted God and declared that government should only exist by consent of the governed.

I think the founders would be disappointed we’ve come to this point. We acquiesce to an overbearing government that hectors and burdens us with asinine regulations and confiscatory taxes the founders never would have tolerated. Government exempts itself from the very laws it inflicts on the rest of us and weaponizes its agencies to harass and make miserable anyone who complains.

That’s not what the founders wanted for us. We owe it to them to follow their example on this Independence Day and every day that God has given us in this great nation.
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