Our Opinion: Some good advice

“We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately,” Benjamin Franklin commented after the nation’s founders declared independence from Great Britain. As so often seems to be the case, the advice is as good now as it was more than two centuries ago.

For all the change that has occurred in our nation and among its people since the first Independence Day, July 4, 1776, the founders displayed a clear understanding of what they were doing — and what it meant for their fellow Americans, both then and now. Here, then, some good advice from those whose deeds we celebrate today:

“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.” — Samuel Adams.

“If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.” — Thomas Paine.

“All men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” — Thomas Jefferson, In the Declaration of Independence.

“But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. … This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” — John Adams in a letter written in 1818.

“If our country, when pressed with wrongs at the point of the bayonet, had been governed by its heads instead of its hearts, where should we have been now? Hanging on a gallows as high as Haman’s.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter written in 1786.

“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” — George Washington, 1779.

“My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” — Rhode Island delegate Stephen Hopkins in signing the Declaration of Independence.

“Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?” — Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, recalling the signing ceremony many years later.

“As to my Title, I know not yet whether it will be honourable or dishonourable, the issue of the War must Settle it. Perhaps our Congress will be Exalted on a high Gallows.” Abraham Clark, of Rhode Island, a few weeks after signing the Declaration of Independence.

“Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” –Continental Army General John Stark.

“The cry has been that when war is declared, all opposition should therefore be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country could hardly be propagated. If the doctrine be admitted, rulers have only to declare war and they are screened at once from scrutiny.” — William Ellery of Rhode Island, a signer of the Declaration.

“Were I to suffer in the cause of American liberty, should I not be translated immediately to heaven as Enoch was of old?” — Joseph Hewes of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration.

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” — James Madison.

“When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.” — Thomas Jefferson.

“Humanity has won its battle. Liberty now has a country.” — Marquis De Lafayette.

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