President Ronald Reagan once noted that the American Revolution was the only Revolution that ushered forward something entirely new.
For most of human history, regardless of culture, society was dominated by a tiny minority in the castle dominating the vast majority in the fields. Oligarchs of one kind or another ruled with an iron fist. The serfs or slaves did the work. The kings, and queens, princes and potentates feasted and frolicked, while the serfs slaved, got sick, and starved.
From the fall in the Garden forward, kings, claiming divine right, ruled, exploiting common people in order to fund uncommon self-indulgence.
Then along came a handful of scholars, intellectuals, soldiers and farmers, building on trends started in Europe between traditional Christianity and the Enlightenment. The law of nature and of nature’s God soon challenged the king’s law and his claim to divine right.
That challenge, through years of blood, tears and sweat, gave us something entirely new. The American Revolution set the captives free. We were no longer ruled, enslaved by a king to serve at his pleasure. Rather, we became self-governing. And we discovered an essential truth: only a virtuous people are capable of self-government.
Through the Declaration and the Constitution, for the first time in history, we removed the chains and created a republic, wherein men might rule themselves by contract, that is, the rule of law. In the process we created a society that provided opportunity, freeing people to pursue it, generate wealth, and share the fruits of their labor, voluntarily, driving down poverty while driving up prosperity. John Adams captured the key.
I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States.
Common men threw off the tyranny of common thugs, becoming extraordinary men instilling the principles of virtue, liberty and justice. This experiment in self-government and liberty was wildly successful, and can be again.
Have we made mistakes? Of course. What experiment runs perfectly the first time? It took Edison one thousand tries before he developed the light bulb, now the symbol for a bright idea. Were some forced into slavery despite our stated beliefs that all men are created equal, and even when freed, did they suffer disproportionate discrimination and deprivation? Yes. But did we turn, as free people, recognize our hypocrisy, and strive to make it right? Yes! And in all that did we lead the world? Yes!
Liberty, and justice for all, is the center of our creed. This experiment in self-government continues, so long as people of good will and virtue support and promote the Revolution and the Republic that Revolution birthed.
How strange it is to see so many working so hard to destroy the very heart of liberty, forcing again and again an old and discredited system of centralized power dominated by oligarchs. Are we so weak and confused and ignorant as to destroy the new and successful in favor of the old and failed?