But these were men to whom the right to be independent in deed and thought was more important than life itself. Men who equated honor and dignity with the ability to make their own decisions and chart their own course, without the interference of the British Crown, or indeed of any government - even, or perhaps especially, their own. Eleven years later, in 1787, some of those same men were among the thirty-nine determined visionaries that hammered out the greatest document in support of personal independence ever conceived by man - the Constitution of the United States.
The Constitution was under attack almost from its ratification in 1791. There were many former aristocrats in the new nation, like Alexander Hamilton, who had sought at the Constitutional Convention and who still sought to fashion the American government on the British model, with a king and a house of lords and a cadre of aristocratic retainers. There were also many Tories, whose sentiments were molded more by the fear of independence than by a hatred of it. It is, after all, far easier to simply do what you're told is best for you than to have to decide such things for yourself.
But America was on the verge of becoming a growing nation, and the spirit of independence, both political and personal, sounded a clarion call to greatness that drowned out the whining of the aristocratic reactionaries and the whimpers of the irresolute. The men who explored the Ohio and the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers and who built outposts of American imperialism at Fort Wayne and Fort Dearborn and Fort Harrison were fiercely independent men. And the pony express riders and the men who strung singing wires across the prairie and the men who bound the nation together with steel rails were men who depended on no one but themselves.
And men like Henry Ford, who gave Americans unlimited personal mobility, and George Eastman, who gave Americans personal photography, and Thomas Edison, who raised America from darkness into light were all men who answered to no man for their actions and took no charity from any man. Independence was not a thing that they worked at - or even thought about. It was the thing that defined them.
Where have such men gone? To the men who built America and made it great, the government was their paid servant - it was certainly not their provider. They provided for themselves, and in so doing they provided untold riches for every American down to the present day. But Americans today, instead of being men, have become kept women with testicles. Like spoiled children, they have their grubby little hands out for more and more money from Mommy Washington's purse, all the while whining about the "problems" of the present. Where are the men who grabbed the present and forged it with their bare hands into the future?
The siren call of dependence is sweet-voiced and salacious, promising security and consistency - but it delivers only bondage. If we have indeed descended to a nation of whimpering slaves, content to follow the overseer's orders and grateful for whatever scraps Ol' Massa deigns to throw us, we cannot possibly enjoy the blessings of freedom - and indeed have proven ourselves unworthy of it.
The bugle call of independence, on the other hand, promises hardship and uncertainty - but its reward is freedom. Freedom and independence are two faces of the same coin - you cannot have one without the other. American freedom was forged in a War for Independence and tempered in the sweat and blood of men who asked nothing more than that they be left the hell alone to do as they pleased. Dwight Eisenhower, Lee Iacocca, Ronald Reagan, and Steve Jobs were such men. But we need more than independent leaders. We need men with the courage to be free.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States understood that freedom is not free, and they were keenly aware that its cost is independence. They knew from experience that dependence on any government would inevitably compromise their freedom to do and say as they pleased. If America is to remain free, we must rededicate ourselves to those principles of independence that guided this great nation through its first 185 years. To paraphrase John Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you could accomplish with your country off your back."
G. E. Kruckeberg (2013-04-22). History and Common Sense. Kindle Edition.