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July 3, 2014

RONN MOTT: The Men Who Made the Country

The Fourth of July is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It reminds me of something David Ben-Gurion would say, at a much later date, about British rule: “If you have to have a master, the British are about as good at it as anybody.” Of course, we really don’t need a master.

I pretty much think that’s where we were in the latter part of the 18th century. We did not want the British taxation with us living in the colonies having no vote on the situation. The autocratic rule of royal governors could disperse any legislative group of colonial citizens. All things imported and exported were controlled by British laws and taxes. All shipping was likely controlled as well unless you were a smuggler. So, the unhappiness the American colonies had with Great Britain was a simmering, long-term situation. It would finally work its way into a revolt against the Crown.

Unlike other revolts against a king or government, this revolt was led by men of responsible position, authority and wealth. By the time of the American Revolution, Benjamin Franklin had franchised his print shop efforts where he would help someone set up printing and they would buy their ink, lead and other things they needed. So he was a very wealthy man and he did it by franchising the business he knew so well.

George Washington was a wealthy plantation owner and a distiller of whiskey, which was a large cash business. Most of the others were plantation owners, businessmen, lawyers and teachers. It was not a rabble, but a rather intelligent group led by men of the Enlightenment. Almost to a man, they realized they were putting their lives and fortunes on the line because if they revolt and lose, they would all be prosecuted for it. As Ben Franklin said, “Gentlemen, we will surely have to hang together because if we don’t, we shall surely hang separately.”

What they were about to do was leave the mother country and start a new country. It had never been done before.

Through the long lens of history, this was an insane move. The world’s best army would be facing you, the world’s greatest navy would blockade your ports, and there was only a slim hope that anybody would come to help. Yet, these men and a rather rag-tag army held together and they would defeat the British and win independence for this little strip of colonies along the eastern part of a great continent full of hope and riches.

Jim Neece and I will discuss this on the radio (WAXI) … the absolute probability of these things facing this small bunch of men and yet they won. These were not terribly religious men. They did not believe they were doing this with God’s good graces, but rather because it was the smart thing to do. The odds were long and hard against them, but there was a chance. I would hope Providence played a hand in this improbable revolt, and there were so many things that looked like coincidence but it may have been something else. Perhaps God did take a hand in the outcome.

Please remember the brave men who had a dream about freedom and running a country without an aristocracy or a king in a time when that was the norm. Here’s to those men who looked ahead and saw what could be, and it is. A salute to the brave soldiers who went hungry, suffered frostbite, worked without pay, and stood their ground against the British Army.

Later, of course, the Constitution was another small miracle.

Happy Fourth of July, America. Please, don’t allow the idiots in Congress to mess this up.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.

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