What the Declaration Means . . .
A better age would give Calvin Coolidge his due as a President of the United States. But given our current fever, maybe it is best that we don't see many statues dedicated to "Silent Cal." Few Antifa are itching to behead a Calvin Coolidge statue. Could they appreciate his views on racial equality as opposed to Woodrow Wilson's? I doubt that, but perhaps, we should not be so quick to judge. Few Americans could probably identify the years Coolidge was in office (1921 to 1923 as Vice President and 1923 to 1929, just as an FYI).
On the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Coolidge delivered a speech on the meaning of the Declaration. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address recovered the Declaration as a founding document, but Coolidge's speech is the best summation of how we should understand the Declaration of Independence--as both a spiritual document and as a final document:
Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. . . . They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
Set aside the amazement of a President of the United States offering that sort of analysis without the aid of speechwriters, much less an audience able to follow it. Is it a surprise that we have lost that appreciation by failing to keep those "altar fires" burning. We need to light them once again.
Coolidge's insight that the Declaration is a final document seems even more relevant today:
About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
I wish the Lords of CHAZ would stick that in their commemorative Karl Marx bong and smoke it. Those that wish to tear down our history and delegitimize the founding are taking us backward in history, not forward. This is not hard to discover with even the mildest sense of curiosity about the empirical results of rejecting liberty and embracing totalitarianism in places like Venezuela, China, and the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone. So, on this July 4th, mix in a little appreciation for our 30th President and his insight into our founding documents.