Saturday, July 04, 2020
For those men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd, 1776, the odds did not look very good. Public opinion polls, if they existed, probably would have told them that only one-third of the population favored the course upon which they were about to embark. One-third was indifferent. One-third opposed independence. The men gathered from the thirteen colonies in Philadelphia, even without polling, probably had a sense that this was the case.
The army which would be the primary instrument of winning independence was scarcely disciplined, poorly uniformed, badly armed, and ill-supplied with food and ammunition. Pay was a promise (which, in fact, was mostly ignored 7 years later). Its generals had no experience commanding larger bodies of troops than a battalion.
True, there had been some victories. Boston had been rendered untenable for the enemy, and he had evacuated it. Fort Ticonderoga had fallen to a surprise attack, and supplied the heavy artillery that had led the British to evacuate Boston. Montreal had been captured, though that invasion force had been stopped at Quebec, and even now was building an anti-invasion fleet on Lake Champlain. The delegates in Philadelphia probably did not know it, but an enemy invasion of Charleston, SC had been averted a few days before.
But there had also been defeats. Despite inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, Bunker Hill had been captured. The attempt to capture Canada had failed miserably.
Most significant was what was coming. As the delegates debated independence, they knew that the British army that had left Boston was en route from Halifax, probably heading for New York. If their spies were accurate, that army would rendezvous with another escorted by an even larger fleet. Large numbers of British and German troops had driven the American Northern Army from Canada, and were poised to drive down Lake Champlain. These troops who would confront their own tattered, inexperienced army were the best Europe could field. British troops who had conquered an empire just 15 years before would be joined by excellent troops from Brunswick and Hesse Cassel, Frederick the Great's best allies. The enemy was supported by professional artillerists, and by a navy that was (despite peacetime decline and corruption) still, ship-for-ship, the best in the world. Thousands of their fellow countrymen would be happy to take up arms alongside the British army. To make matters worse, the Indian nations were ready to take up arms on behalf of the King, raising the prospect of burned farms, scalped settlers, and women and children abducted into captivity among the savages.
The men in Philadelphia must have found the prospect of declaring independence a daunting task. In the next three months, the most likely outcome was that the British army would take New York, flatten their own army, and then march on Philadelphia to hang them for treason. Their property would be taken from their families. At best they would become fugitives constantly on the run from British authorities.
But the best of them had a vision for the future, and strong reasons to feel the need to break with the past. The vision was that they would govern themselves, as they actually had for the most part, until the Imperial government decided to tap America for revenue to pay for keeping the peace with the Indians. John Winthrop's vision of a city set upon a hill remained a strong one, and merged with Locke's ideas about government, and newer ideas coming from Adam Smith about how an economy ought to be allowed to develop. A unified vision of a new nation which would serve as a beacon of liberty for all nations emerged, and was in the forefront of the minds of the men in Philadelphia. They had in this synthesis of ideas and in adapting to conditions on the American frontier, become a new nationality in need of a new nation.
And yet, despite all the obstacles, it was the vision that prevailed, and not the balance of forces. It is that vision that we celebrate today. John Adams, who did more than anyone to push the cause of independence through Congress, wrote to his wife that July 2, 1776 (the day the Declaration was approved):
"...Will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverence by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more."
May it always be so.
Thursday, July 02, 2020
My guess is that the 1970 Ordo observes the Visitation when it would have begun, while the traditional Ordo observes it at the time it would have ended.
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit rejoiceth in God my Savior.
For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden,
For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For He who is mighty hath done great things for me, and holy is His Name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.
He hath shown strength with His arm:
He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts.
He hath pulled down the mighty from their thrones,
And hath exalted those of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
And the rich He has sent, empty, away.
He hath helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy;
As He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to His posterity, forever.
Wednesday, July 01, 2020
Monday, June 29, 2020
You can pray the traditional Office for this feast here.
Deus, qui hodiérnam diem Apostolórum tuórum Petri et Pauli martyrio consecrásti : da Ecclésiæ tuæ, eórum in ómnibus sequi præcéptum; per quos religiónis sumpsit exordium.
Let us pray.
O God, who didst hallow this day by the martyrdom of thine holy Apostles Peter and Paul, grant unto thy Church, whose foundations thou wast pleased to lay by their hands, the grace always in all things to remain faithful to their teaching.
Saint Peter, please play for us!
Saint Paul, please pray for us!