In Congress, July 4, 1776, our independence was declared. "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them …"
According to author Norman T. Simpson, "It was a time of accusations and counter-accusations. Households were divided, loyalties confused. General Washington had emerged as the Commander-in-Chief and the British declared war on the Colonies."
Just two years earlier in 1774, though, American independence was hardly inevitable. Most American colonists were either ambivalent about independence or were against it.
We didn’t have polls in 1775, so educated guesses are necessary to determine how many colonists were actually in favor of declaring independence from the British. According to Historian Robert Calhoon, the percentage of Loyalists — those loyal to the King of England — in the 13 American Colonies in 1775 is estimated to have been somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.
"Approximately half the colonists of European ancestry tried to avoid involvement in the struggle — some of them deliberate pacifists, others recent immigrants, and many more simple apolitical folk. The Patriots received active support from perhaps 40 percent of the white populace," according to Calhoon.
Even with the odds stacked firmly against them, the Patriots were nonetheless willing 237 years ago to sacrifice their "lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor …" for the cause of liberty as they stated in our Declaration of Independence.
And even with less than half of the population on their side, they still had a fighting chance — to our ultimate blessing as citizens, indeed the world’s — to succeed.
Today the Patriots — even with their fanatic and rightful devotion to such a worthy cause — could not succeed. The Declaration of Independence could not be written. It would be stopped dead in its tracks, its authors and the other plotters of our independence arrested or killed.
Patrick Henry’s stirring words — his unifying call to arms — in Richmond, Va., on March 23, 1775, would not be permitted. "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
Today those words would be squashed, captured unwritten, unsaid and uninspiring by the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of government peering over his shoulder, muting him before his words could spur action.
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s revelation that the agency was collecting and, when someone deems it necessary, monitoring communications of Americans, guarantees the Declaration of Independence could not be written today. Our government would not allow it.
The South Jersey Courier-Post described the NSA’s monitoring of our communications this way: "Armed with the nation’s phone logs, the NSA’s computers have the ability to identify what normal call behavior looks like. And, with powerful computers, it would be possible to compare the entire database against computer models the government believes show what terrorist calling patterns look like. Further analysis could identify what are known in intelligence circles as ‘communities of interest’ — the networks of people who are in contact with targets or suspicious phone numbers."
Bloomberg reported that Army general and NSA chief Keith Alexander, testifying before the House Select Intelligence Committee, said that his communication monitoring programs were "limited, focused and subject to rigorous oversight."
He reported, I suppose to make us feel better about giving up our privacy for our near-perfect security, that more than 50 potential terrorist events around the world were prevented by his agency’s snooping.
Today, the Founding Fathers would be an NSA "community of interest." Their communications, their stirring words, and the Declaration of Independence would receive "rigorous oversight" and be ended well before inspiring 40 percent of the population to stand with them.
If the British had the means leading up to 1776 to stop the Declaration of Independence, to shackle the Patriots’ volley of ideas of liberty, independence and freedom, and to ensure the provoking and inspirational words of our Founding Fathers — to the British they were terrorists — fell silent, would they have used those means? You betcha. In a New York minute.
I’m a patriot. I love my country and respect my government. But what our government’s prying — even potentially — into our private communications means for us, today, Independence Day 2013, is this: We had all better pray that "in the course of American events, it never again becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them."
Why? Because we’d surely fail.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at email@example.com.