“If you imagine that I expect this Declaration, will ward off, Calamities from this Country, you are much mistaken.  A bloody Conflict We are destined to endure…If you imagine that I flatter myself, with Happiness and Halcyon days, after a Separation from Great Britain, you are mistaken again.  I don’t expect that our new Governments will be So quiet, as I could wish, nor that happy Harmony, Confidence and Affection between the Colonies, that every good American ought to study, labor, and pray for, a long time.

But Freedom is a Counterbalance for Poverty, Discord, and War, and more.  It is your hard Lot and mine to be called into Life, at such a Time.—Yet even these Times have their Pleasures.”

~ John Adams, letter to Samuel Chase, 01 July 1776


There has always been something completely singular about our nation.  This has been true from the first days of its formation, and it remains true today.  While there might be other democracies in existence now, ours is still unique in its characteristics and makeup.  Peoples and nations look to America as standing for something different, something truly revolutionary, and we’ve been both revered and reviled for it.  The Founding Fathers knew this would happen.  They knew their Declaration would cause a rift that could only end in conflict with their former mother country.  They also knew the ideals that the new America stood for would continue to attract dissent and discord in the future.  Being different is never the easiest path, for a person or a nation.  And the Founders knew when they set our nation on the path of freedom that we would always be a target.  At first, it was for the wrath of Great Britain, and in the future, they knew that we would be in for the rage of those who cannot stand a people proud to be free and proud to engage in a government system where everyone doesn’t always agree.  We have been, and always will be, a nation which attracts the best and the worst from humanity.  Those who feel the clarion call of liberty will always seek to be one with us, and those who cannot accept that anyone is or does things differently than they approve of, will seek to harm us.  Because we still are revolutionary.

When John Adams penned the above letter to Samuel Chase, the official start of the American Revolution was quickly approaching.  But for Adams and the rest of New England, blood had already been spilt, and Boston had been living under siege.  The Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first real engagements of the Revolution, had happened more than a year previously, on the 19th of April in 1775.  So unlike many of his revolutionary contemporaries, Adams truly understood what would happen when rhetoric finally became action.  And yet, despite knowing it was a “hard lot” that the people would have to bear in order to secure their freedom, Adams never hesitated, and neither did the American people as a whole.  During eight years of war, more than 25,000 Revolutionary Americans on active military duty would lose their lives in service to the cause of independence, and a new kind of nation.  Did that dampen the grief of their loved ones or the heavy weight of responsibility felt by the men who set them on this path?  Certainly not.  But the importance and the meaning of their sacrifice endures, as we endure to this day.  We are the beneficiaries and the keepers of the freedom they left to us.

Freedom will never provide a foolproof safeguard against tragedy and calamity.  In fact, such revolutionary freedom will sometimes invite them in, whether we wish it or not.  But as a people, we can be confident that the sacrifices we make to preserve that freedom and our nation’s true character will never truly be in vain.  Because calamity cannot snuff out the fires of liberty and tragedy cannot destroy the spirit of freedom and independence upon which our nation is built.  As Americans, it’s been our hard lot in recent times to face destruction and discord.  Yet it’s as Americans that we take these times head on, just as our fore-fathers did – we help one another, we seek justice, and we rise above.  We are a revolutionary people, and our freedom will endure.


Res Publica


Documentation without Representation:

John Adams, letter to Samuel Chase, 01 July 1776 (minor modern grammatical corrections and emphasis added by me)

Electronic Text Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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