Ben Franklin

^ Benjamin Franklin : conscience of Independence

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The men who met at Philadelphia in 1776 did not lightly decide to break with the government in London that had ruled their prospects and their legislatures. But as that summer approached, more and more a majority of them accepted that independence had to be; that accord could not be trusted; that between what they wanted and what London wanted of them, there was impasse; and that in any case, occupation of the 13 states by armed soldiery sent, from London was an act of war.

Thus they set Thomas Jefferson (and perhaps others) the task of writing a bill of particulars setting forth the many reasons why they could no longer be ruled from London and why, instead, they would be a league of republics governing themselves and relating by accord with one another. It was a risky move. As Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have said, when the meeting at Philadelphia grew contentious, “gentlemen, we must be all hang together or we shall all hang separately.”

So saying, Franklin summed up what independence relies upon and without which it cannot thrive : together.

The Independence of a nation is not the act of a lone individual who breaks with his neighbors, who spurns his community, who relies on a gun to get his way and others be damned.

The Independence of a nation is the consensus of those who comprise it. Those who, today, assert that every person goes his or her own way, and that the right to bear arms is a right guaranteed to individuals acting individually (as we often hear on Independence Day), mistake selfishness for solidity, whim for will, freedom for free-booting.

On this, the 241st anniversary of the announcement, kin Philadelphia, of the united colonies’ resolve to be sovereign thenceforth, we who inhabit and bear responsibility for the nation they created eleven years later need to recall — and embrace — the togetherness upon which our sovereignty rests. Only in unity are we sovereign. Only by pursuing the General Welfare do we protect the welfare of each of us.

Those who would demean any part of our people, or seek to separate any group of us from the rest of us, weaken our sovereignty, compromise our freedom, betray our founders. If from Washington we hear, from this or that elected leader, words of insult, or of casting some of us adrift, or of enemies, we are hearing the opposite of what Independence Day stands for : words of indulgence and ego, feral and libertine — that have no place, ever, in the national conversation that began with Thomas Jefferson’s bill of reasons for insisting on Independence.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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