By Lt. Col. James W. Marrs, 217TH TRAINING SQUADRON COMMANDER
/ Published June 26, 2009
GOODFELLOW AFB, TEXAS --
"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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness."
Just powers, the consent of the governed, rights to life and liberty, safety and happiness. These are recurring themes even today as we watch the news. People around the globe from many cultures and creeds are yearning for their votes to be counted, their lives to be secure, their children to have an opportunity to enjoy the liberties of a free and just society where hard work and solid moral character secure a civil society. This is what I hope for my children.
In 1775, the feeling among the people in the British colonies in America was anything but secure. The British government had emerged from the Seven Years' War in 1763 burdened by heavy debts. That war had also precipitated a post-war recession, and British merchants began to demand payment for debts which the colonists had incurred from buying British imports.
From 1763 to 1775, Britain levied a series of new taxes, enforced some existing ones, and restricted free trade by the colonies. The Parliament abolished the use of colonial-produced script money for the payment of debts, making it even more difficult for the colonists to pay the new taxes. Appeals by the colonies for relief were ignored. Refusals to pay taxes and boycotts of taxed and imported goods were answered with the stationing of troops and seizures of colonists' property. The economic pressure placed on the colonists by the increasingly tyrannical government in London was threatening to destroy the hard-won economic stability several generations of European settlers had carved out of the wilderness.
An appeal by the First Continental Congress to the King in 1774 was answered with the deployment of more troops, resulting in increasing incidents of brutality and abuse.
On April 19th, 1775, a column of seven hundred British troops left Boston and marched towards Concord where they correctly suspected the Massachusetts militia had been stockpiling gunpowder and arms. The British troops arrived in Lexington at dawn, where they found a line of colonial militia Minutemen assembled on the village green. The British halted and their commander shouted, "Disperse, ye rebels, disperse!" The men of the Lexington militia had first mustered just after midnight. Captain John Parker had taken command of the few score who had turned out on Lexington Green and waited with them through the night. Parker expected this likely encounter with British troops to be like previous ones. British regulars had so far never fired upon or charged any militia formations. There would be some talks between officers and concessions made on both sides. When militia formations had stood firm, they had always carried the day. But neither of these scenarios would play out this particular morning.
As Parker observed the approaching British, they began to accelerate their pace and advanced quickly towards the militia's line. A surprised Captain Parker saw a threatening line of British troops running, with muskets ready and fixed bayonets gleaming in the morning sunlight. In the distance he saw the leader of the charge, a Royal Marine with drawn sword raised over his head.
Not wanting his untested militia to be exposed to such an assault of British regulars in the open, Parker ordered his men to disperse and take cover. The militia, weapons still in hand, headed for the stone fence nearby. One of the charging British was heard to cry, "Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!"
Suddenly, above the confusion and yelling, came the unmistakable "crack" of a musket. More shots quickly followed, and the skirmish soon ended with the British in command of the Green. The British continued to advanced, but only as far as Concord, where they were routed by a second, much more successful stand of the militia.
As they retreated to Boston, the British were under constant attack from the now growing militia who inflicted well over 250 casualties on them. In turn, the militia suffered fewer than 20 casualties that day.
It was more than a year later when the words of the Declaration were penned and agreed to at Philadelphia. These words from that document continue to inspire those who today desire to gain or secure their freedom: "...it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security...
...We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States...
...And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
So as you spend time with friends and family this weekend, enjoying public events, fireworks, music, and good food - take time to consider the hard-won rights and freedoms we enjoy, acknowledging the Creator who first gave us those rights in the first place, and honoring those people who pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to secure the freedoms we too often take for granted.