Suggestions for reading and viewing on the 4th of July

Once again, we have a suggestion for the 4th of July. This time from a Republican who  viewed life and our country more like a mid-20th-century Democrat. But for a strong sense of public integrity he might likely have run and become President in the late 1800’s.

Also a recent book on our heritage: Kurt Andersen’s <Fantasyland> How America Went Haywire: A 500 Year History

Robert G. Ingersoll was likely the most widely known orator of the late 1800’s, following Emerson, and preceding Mark Twain. In 1876 he gave this oration on “The Meaning of the Declaration of Independence” <read>

all things considered, it was the bravest political document ever signed by man. And if it was physically brave, the moral courage of the document is almost infinitely beyond the physical. They had the courage not only, but they had the almost infinite wisdom to declare that all men are created equal. Such things had occasionally been said by some political enthusiasts in the olden time, but for the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priestcraft, that kingcraft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow, that infamous spirit of caste that makes a god almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed all that had been done by centuries of war—centuries of hypocrisy—centuries of injustice….

“What more did they do? They then declared that each man has a right to live. And what does that mean? It means that he has the right to make his living. It means that he has the right to breathe the air, to work the land, that he stands the equal of every other human being beneath the shining stars; entitled to the product of his labor—the labor of his hand and of his brain.

What more? That every man has the right; to pursue his own happiness in his own way. Grander words than these have never been spoken by man.



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