“… the air of dignity with which these lauded men carried themselves.”
Here is a Talking Point Guide for use during your Fourth of July gathering that will help stimulate a “higher level” of group conversation.
However, this Guide is only to be used after your group has finished gossiping about any absent family members or friends.
The person in your gathering who happened to stumble upon this piece is obviously the wisest among you and, therefore, should be designated group leader.
The group leader should start off by asking the following question:
What are we celebrating today?
Do not be surprised if the answer is summer vacation, fireworks or barbeques.
The group leader must be patient if any family or friends honestly do not know the real meaning of the day.
If you decide to mention Independence Day you must follow it up with the obvious question of independence from what for whom. Again, do not be surprised if those listening do not know the answer, especially if they are recent products of public secondary schools or universities.
Forging ahead, here is the next question for the group.
Are you proud to be an American?
If the answers are “yes” then follow up with:
Why are you proud to be an American?
This should elicit some interesting conversation.
However, if the answer to “are you proud to be an American” was “no” and the name of George W. Bush is evoked, I recommend you stop right here and drink heavily the rest of the day.
If you dare to continue, this extremely politically incorrect discussion point should be next.
First, mention an almost forgotten document that is the reason for the day and then slowly read its most famous passage, deliberately omitting the three most important words just like President Obama did.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
After your dramatic reading look up and see if anyone noticed that something was missing. If someone did, promise that person an extra hot dog and then task him/her to correctly read the passage. Then you both should explain to your group why the words by their Creator (instead of by their king) were so powerful that a bunch of gentlemen farmers were willing to start a violent revolution against the greatest military on earth.
On the other hand, if no one noticed the omission then inform anyone left listening that three important words were missing and correctly read the passage.
After this, explain to your group that our Founding Fathers were the first leaders on the planet to believe that humans were entitled to certain unalienable rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and that these rights were endowed by God and not a king. That is what made the formation of their new nation so special and, many would say, exceptional to this day.
This concept could lead to a number of different discussions, but if this were my family someone would storm off reminding me that we were never to discuss politics or religion at any family gathering.
So Happy Fourth of July and I am sorry if I have offended anyone.
They all pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honors,” and it was more than just an idle boast.
The Founding Fathers were committing treason against the most powerful empire that the world to date had ever seen. It was also their Mother Country, to which many of their friends, family, and neighbors were still loyal.
And while they certainly, in the words of Patrick Henry, “made the most” of their treason, the idea that they would establish the most free and powerful nation in the history of mankind was not the most likely outcome.
So in singling out these 7 men in standing out as badasses (and I am sure some of you will find a more worthy nominee or two that I should have thought of, so please feel free to enlighten me in the Comments section), I am not minimizing the notion that Ben Franklin was right — that they could most certainly “all hang separately” whether they all hung together as he urged them, or not.
However some men risked just a bit more, courted danger a little more closely, and were just a bit more reckless with their lives or fortunes. Here are 7 of them, and on this Independence Day, I hope I do these Founding Badasses justice.
7. Henry Laurens
Veteran Indian fighter Henry Laurens from the Cherokee campaign of the French and Indian War was a bit too old to serve in the Continental Army during the Revolution, but that didn’t stop him from being the only American to be imprisoned in the infamous Tower of London.
After that war, Laurens became a very wealthy rice planter, and was a continuously elected member of the South Carolina Assembly. Like most of the eventual revolutionaries, Laurens favored reconciliation with the Crown, even while advocating for more freedom for the colonists.
He became a prominent member of South Carolina’s revolutionary government, was elected to the Continental Congress, and eventually succeeded John Hancock as the president of the Revolution’s governing body.
Meanwhile Henry’s son John was making a name for himself as a soldier in the Continental Army. John vociferously argued that slavery was anathema to the fledgling nation’s rhetoric about liberty, and was granted permission to offer South Carolina’s slaves freedom in exchange for military service.
He was vigorously opposed by Governor Rutledge, who was not quite as fierce in his defense of Charleston from the British. When Rutledge tried to surrender, John Laurens took on the defense of Charleston and repulsed the British forces.
Shortly thereafter, he was captured by the British and shipped to Philadelphia, just as his father Henry was leaving that city for a secret mission to convince the Netherlands to help the American cause financially. Henry’s diplomatic mission was successful, but he was himself captured by the British on his second voyage to Amsterdam and tossed into the abysmal conditions of the Tower.
Eventually both Laurens were freed in prisoner exchanges (Henry for Lord Cornwallis himself), and, undaunted, John went back to fighting Redcoats and Henry back to get money from the Dutch. John was killed in a skirmish late in the war in 1782; but his father honored his principles by manumitting all 260 of their slaves after the war.