Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Fourth of July

Taylor Caldwell (1900-1984) was prolific writer whose works include Pillar of Iron, The Listener, and Captains and the Kings. The following “speech” given by a disabled veteran is found in her book The Sound of Thunder. It is an excellent reminder of what we really celebrate on the 4th.

fireworks-statue-of-liberty“It’s very good to celebrate the Fourth of July with firecrackers and the shooting off of cannon and bonfires and picnics and speeches. It’s nice to go out in rowboats and canoes on the lake, here in the park, and have a holiday. A holiday. I know you people work very hard, most of you twelve hours a day, six days a week. My dad does, too. You deserve a holiday, and pleasure, and the banging of firecrackers. But it shouldn’t be on the Fourth of July. Independence Day.

“But the Fourth of July should have something of a holy feeling about it. For on that day our nation was born, conceived in liberty, planned in reverence, and signed with the sacred honor and blood of noble men. This is a day for prayer and remembrance, and the renewal of vows that this nation shall never forget the men who died and fought for it, and bought it not only with all their fortunes but with their lives and prayers. This is a day for the churches to be open and filled with all of you , a day of quiet respect and soberness and bravery and hope and dedication.

The Prayer at Valley Forge“You have been given a nation, a history, a tradition, a republic. You have been given a Constitution which could have come only from God, for it’s so perfect and so good and so heroic. For the first time in the world a document asserted that men were created equal before the face of God and law, that they were endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, the right to live in freedom and to die in freedom, the right to worship God in their own way, the right to pursue happiness, the right to property, the right to be secure in their persons and not to be oppressed by the military and despots and ambitious men who might want to enslave them in the future, as the old tyrants once enslaved them. How could mere men, even the men who brought about the American Revolution, have conceived of such documents without the help and the voice of God? And how can we keep our republic without God’s help, without remembering what He has done for us, without praying that we must not forget?

“We are at peace. But how long shall we be at peace? Is there any group of men anywhere believing that we must die as a free nation, and that the mass of mankind is unworthy of liberty, and that liberty is the province of only the powerful and those who would oppress us? Be sure that there are such men. There always have been in all the history of the world. If you do not recognize them when they appear in government, then we shall all surely die, and our Constitution with us, and there will be no remembrance of it and no remembrance of Him who gave us a nation and gave us our freedom. They are not new in the world. They are as old as death and sin.

“My country, my dear country! God bless you and keep you forever, keep you vigorous in peace and valor and justice, unstained by the lust for power, untainted by the hands of ambitious and treacherous men, free from liars and thieves and murderers, who always lie in wait for the liberty-loving and the good and the peaceful, so that they can destroy them. God keep you strong in your virtue; do not war except to protect yourself. Do not search for what is not yours but other men’s.

“God keep you, God bless you, God help your people to remember what you have done for them. My dear country.”

The Sound of Thunder, Taylor Caldwell, 1957, p. 527-529 ,

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