OUR PRECIOUS YOUTH
Attorney Jonathan Emord
November 16, 2009
The natural tendency for governors is to assume more power to govern, even at the expense of individual liberty. Shortly after the American Revolution and into the New Nation period, American mothers assumed the role of inculcating youth with the glorious history and ideals of the American Revolution so magnificently encapsulated and expressed in the Declaration of Independence. They did so with the aim of raising model citizens. A love of liberty combined with a patriotic sense of duty to country even at the expense of self leads youth to be leaders and defenders of our Republic, protecting liberty with self-sacrifice when sacrifice is required. The failure to continue those teachings in modern generations has led to a hedonism whereby some Americans have been willing to give up precious rights and powers to the government in exchange for illusive promises of protection from life’s travails. Restoration of the founding fathers’ Constitution of Liberty depends on a return to what some have called “Republican Motherhood,” the inculcation in our youth of an understanding of, and respect for, our founding ideals in an effort to mould them into model citizens in defense of liberty and in opposition to government encroachments on freedom.
The failure of parents to educate their children of America’s revolutionary history, of the quest of a generation to part from the shackles imposed upon them by a mother country intent on taking their liberties and taxing them without representation, denies youth the opportunity to love their country’s greatest ideals and heroes. We cannot expect young adults to love liberty if they do not understand that ours is a country founded on the ideal that rights to life, liberty, and property are God-given and inalienable; that just governments are instituted among men to protect those rights; and that eternal vigilance is required to prevent government from taking those rights away. Our youth must come to know George Washington, appreciate his incredible achievements (overcoming the world’s greatest military power with a rag tag force of irregulars who were outnumbered, out-gunned, and out-maneuvered again and again but still managed to pull off one of the greatest military upsets in history), his great humility, his great honesty, his unwillingness to exchange liberty for dictatorship, and his model example of a citizen President. They must come to know Thomas Jefferson, the word smith of liberty and the brilliant mind whose love of liberty proved indispensable in securing a bill of rights for our country and in rejecting early attempts at tyranny. They must come to know James Madison, the father of the bill of rights, whose efforts in the First Congress gave us affirmative protections against government deprivations of liberty. They must come to understand that liberty is precious and easily wrested from us by government action. They must learn to guard liberty jealously, appreciate it as a gift from the prior generation, and one that they must pass on to the next without any loss.
“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from his government,” wrote Thomas Paine, recognizing that encroachment by government upon liberty is inevitable but a people who love liberty would be quick to fight against the encroachment. Jefferson likewise taught repeatedly that we are to beware of government for it, like a wolf in sheep’s cloth, could come among the sheep and devour them. He warned presciently: “When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will . . . become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” In the twentieth century, as big government gained a foothold and embraced every “public interest” argument as an excuse for separating the people from their liberties, Justice Louis D. Brandeis warned: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
When a generation is not taught the principles that drove our founding fathers to revolt in a conservative revolution to bring about a Constitution of Liberty, it is ill-equipped to appreciate how precious that liberty really is, how it is always under attack, how it is never secure. Such a generation is liable to take liberty for granted and to presume it worth exchanging for the promise of material gain from governors quick to make promises. That generation is most vulnerable to the clever sales pitch that promises government largesse to solve problems that are in truth unsolvable by state action and only solvable through private initiative. That generation is fit more for servitude brought about by naive resignation of individual rights than for freedom brought about by self-sacrifice to ensure protection for those rights.
Each child deserves for the sacred fire of liberty of which George Washington spoke to burn in his or her heart, a gift from freedom loving parents. I received that fire from my father. Born into a military family under the influence of a larger than life gentleman, I learned early the principles of liberty, a love of country, and the need for self-sacrifice to preserve liberty from its ever present foes. My father was in the Air Force (having first served in the Navy, then in the Army Air Corps, and then in the Air Force), a total of 33 years (through all major conflicts between World War II and Vietnam). It was 1964 at the height of the Cold War. We were stationed in England at Lakenheath and Alconbury air bases. On most mornings, my father would rise at 5AM to the sound of an air raid siren, racing to the flight line for a drill in preparation for a nuclear conflict. The F-100s would take off from the air base at Alconbury in perfect formation under the command of Colonel Dewitt S. Spain and fly to France, refuel and then fly on to the Soviet border to draw out the Soviet Migs and photograph them. The war was all but upon us and every airman knew that at a moment’s notice he or she could witness the cold war become hot. General Curtis LeMay had created the Strategic Air Command as America’s first line of defense in the event of a nuclear conflict with the Soviet Union.
As a youth, I could feel the sense of readiness, the willingness to defend freedom, and the great love of country that filled every heart around me. We were one in our mission, though diverse in every other respect. My father had been a professional boxer. He fought under the pseudonym Tommy Reardon. He had 61 professional fights, including 57 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. He was the bravest man I have ever known, utterly fearless in every respect, willing to die for his country upon command. He was a super hero come to life for a young boy. He was my ideal. I recall over and over again my father standing at attention in a crisp and clean uniform, facing the flag and saluting, as the Star Spangled Banner touched our ears. I remember at age 3 his kind words of instruction to stand at attention in perfect silence, facing the flag, with my right hand over my heart, in humble respect for the great nation we had the privilege to live in and defend against all threats to liberty, to our way of life. The thought of those moments, of the words of our national anthem, of the night spent by Francis Scot Key aboard the HMS Tonnant during the Battle of Baltimore which inspired him to write the immortal words of what was to become the National Anthem, still touch my heart and fill me with solemnity and profound respect for my great country.
Those kinds of experiences leave indelible impressions on the mind. When a generation is denied them, it is denied the sacred fire of liberty, and slavery is not far from exerting a choke hold. Consider the untimely demise of the hero of the American Revolution (and father of Robert E. Lee), General “Light Horse” Harry Lee III. Lee had fought with great bravery in the Revolutionary War battles of Paulus Hook, Guilford Court House; Camden; and Eutaw Springs. His sacrifices for freedom were among the greatest given in the war for independence. On July 12, 1812, however, a mob angered by the dissenting views of newspaper publisher Alexander Contee Hanson, abandoned the principles of the revolution that gave birth to the First Amendment and sought to condemn a man solely for opposing the War of 1812. Contee had opposed the war in his Baltimore newspaper, the Federal Republican. Committed to those founding principles that protect the right to dissent and to the rule of law, Lee came to Hanson’s aid. The mob surrounded the building in which Hanson and Lee were holed up, and then bludgeoned both to death. Thus, this generation had lost touch with the founding generation in a direct and horrific way, abandoning the founding principles, principles Lee steadfastly fought throughout his life to defend, principles he died defending at the hands of his fellow citizens. When our founding principles are not inculcated into each new generation, there are those who for the sake of expedience or misguided zeal will prove just how precious our liberties are by depriving us of them. We cannot afford that loss and, so, must be sure to educate our youth in the founding principles.
As we ponder the many sacrifices given for freedom this Veteran’s Day, my wish is that each of us will commit to educate our children about the principles and personages of the American Revolution. A good starting place is the Declaration of Independence. Study its meaning with your children. Learn the history of the struggle for American Independence. Inform your children of the lives and legacies of the Sons of Liberty and of our founding fathers. Inspire them to love liberty and appreciate that it cannot survive without their commitment to defend it.
I believe, as Lincoln did at the start of the Civil War, that if only our people can come to remember the great legacy of liberty that is the gift of the founding generation, we can again come to ensure the survival and success of liberty, our unique constitutional destiny. In his first Inaugural Address on March 4, 1861 Abraham Lincoln beckoned all Americans to recall our common origins: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
© 2009 Jonathan W. Emord - All Rights Reserved