John Adams

Above The Political Fray

Tensions in Colonial America were high over England's decision to garrison British troops in Boston to enforce the Townshend Acts taxes. On March 5, 1770, the tensions exploded as British soldiers shot into a crowd killing five colonists in what would quickly be called the Boston Massacre. The massacre stood as a rallying cry for colonials and the British soldiers indicted for murder were vilified and despised. There was no one less popular to the press or to the people than these British soldiers. To the shock of many, the most prominent attorney in Boston risked his reputation and career to defend Captain Thomas Preston, the commanding officer for the soldiers the night of the Boston Massacre. Why would this attorney with an eye towards a political future put it all on the line to defend the hated British captain? Why would he risk his career and future representing someone despised by the press? Why would he stand for those who were despised by the intellectuals of the day? In short, his belief in fidelity to the law.

In his closing argument that historians agree earned Captain Preston's acquittal, he stated:

[t]he law, in all vicissitudes of government, fluctuations of the passions, or flights of enthusiasm, will preserve a steady undeviating course; it will not bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men. ... On the one hand [the law] is inexorable to the cries and lamentations of the prisoners; on the other it is deaf, deaf as an adder to the clamours of the populace.

He recognized that the law is supposed to be above the political fray and at times it is the duty of an attorney to represent a client and take positions that he finds personally repugnant. Adherence to the law above all else has been the very foundation of the legal profession for centuries. Even today, the Virginia State Bar's Rules on Professional Conduct recognize this responsibility as best explained in a comment to Rule 1.3 providing:

[a] lawyer should pursue a matter on behalf of a client despite opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience to the lawyer.

It does not portend well for the future of our great nation when attorneys no longer turn a deaf ear to the popular thinking and desires of the day. But that is exactly what Attorney General Mark Herring did when he made the decision to not only refuse to defend Virginia's Marriage Amendment, but to actively argue against it. He succumbed to the temptation to "bend to the uncertain wishes, imaginations, and wanton tempers of men." He chose to pander to his liberal base and media elite to gain a leg up on his competition for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in four years.

One can learn a lot from history. That attorney who stood for the law even when that position was unpopular and threatened his career went on to great things because his integrity and fidelity to the law meant he could be trusted and relied upon. Even those who disagreed with his decision ultimately respected him for it. He went on to serve in the Continental Congress, to sign the Declaration of Independence, and serve as vice-president and, ultimately, President of the United States. This great statesman was none other than John Adams, who risked his political career to defend Captain Preston because his belief in the law no matter how unpopular was of paramount importance.

We'll see how history treats Attorney General Herring, who has charted a vastly different course from one of our greatest founders.

Independence Day, "John Adams" Style

Anyone who has read this blog since its inception in 2007 knows that I love history and that on holidays such as Independence Day I try to bring to life the event we celebrate. On past celebrations of this great day, I have referenced the great musical 1776 to emphasize patriotism and the extraordinary role in American independence by a not well remembered Virginian. In 2008, HBO presented a spectacularly well produced and acted special event series, John Adams (see my commentary here), based on the biography by noted historian David McCullough. It is a must watch, very much well worth the rental or purchase (or perhaps your library has it for borrowing). Below, please watch the scene on the vote for "independency." Solemn, serious, momentous. These men, many of whom suffered great personal and financial losses never to be recovered, truly pledged to each other their "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" (see the famous account of their fates by Rush Limbaugh's father). If these men cared only about power and preserving their wealth, they never would have ventured into what they were told was the folly of taking on the British. Independence meant hard work and responsibility. Life under the crown may have been inconvenient at times, but very prosperous and very comfortable.

This was no game, no passing fancy. The implications were enormous, even grave. There was no glee, nor ambition in taking this vote — a true show of leadership, taking a dazed and confused collection of colonies into mortal danger against the world's super power of the time. Yet it had to be done. Considered rebellion and high treason by the crown, it was revolutionary only in its uniqueness — an unprecedented declaration of defiance to create among several colonies self-governing states as well as a new nation, not an overthrow of a government (thus, the "War of Independence" not the "Revolutionary War"), taken for granted now by a steady succession of nations that unburdened themselves late last century by oppressive conquerors and colonizers.

Portrayed with the solemnity the moment surely carried and with the quiet confidence these Founders embodied in its first public reading, this superb production celebrates, commemorates and encapsulates, with great reverence and accuracy, one of the world's seminal moments. From the entire board, staff and volunteers of The Family Foundation of Virginia, best wishes for a safe, fun and reverent Independence Day.

Inspirational scene: Bringing patriotic and heroic events to life with stirring portrayals is important. Great presentations such as John Adams can motivate us to learn the true meaning of our founding, and better appreciate the sacrifices made for our country throughout history.

(Only Conservatives) Love A (July 4th) Parade?

This is not exactly the type of pre-Independence Day post I envisioned, but when an article came to my attention earlier this week about a Harvard study that claims July 4th parades are some type of Republican pep rally, it was too much to pass up. That is, after I realized it was not a parody (see Paul Bedard's Washington Whispers Blog at USNews.com). Next, we'll find out that the "researchers" got a "stimulus" (or other government) grant to do the report. (How ironic is it that it came from Harvard, John Adams' alma mater? See the 1776 clip, below.) According to the report, conservatives are a patriotic lot. Now, that's a shock. Of course, I guess it depends on your definition of patriotism. The Left has been trying to redefine it for years, along with everything else (from marriage to the word "is"). Hillary Clinton tried to redefine the redefinition then stamp her own version of patriotism in this famous rant where she set up the conservative bogeyman and screeched against this figment of her imagination.

But the report goes beyond calling conservatives patriotic. For instance, it says:

The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.

I didn't know American history could be appropriated. I thought the tenants of American independence — Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — that are celebrated each Independence Day were universal. If anyone has appropriated anything it is the Left which has made it a practice of apologizing for the founding of our country, what America stands for and the good we've done around the world.

The report's findings imply a brainwashing of sorts:

» Attending a July 4th parade before the age of 18 increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.

» It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.

» It boosts the likelihood a reveler will vote by about 1 percent and increases the chances they'll make a political contribution by 3 percent.

That's another irony, considering what much of what public education has become, as well as the general public discourse, where the Left has reinterpreted Founding Principles to mean that more government equals more freedom, precisely the opposite reason why Americans took up arms against the British Empire.

But rather than trying to make Independence Day a partisan occasion, why doesn't the Left simply participate in it? Maybe they'll find they like it, have a good time and make new friends. That is, if they don't mind admiring the courage of the Founders, finding the magnificence of the Declaration's stirring words, and reveling in the truth of what Robert Middlekauff termed The Glorious Cause.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Gala Remarks By Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb

Tonight, you are part of the largest crowd to ever attend a Family Foundation Gala. Thank you for joining us and for your support of our work. Tonight is the first time that we have held our gala prior to Election Day. The past two galas, in fact, took place in the days immediately following elections, where we came together to lick our wounds and try to find solace after two miserable election seasons. Of course, we were being blamed for election loses by both politicians and pundits. Conservative principles, we were told, just can’t win. We were encouraged to shut up and go away. Frustration was growing among those of us who still believe in transcendent values, and that those values can win on Election Day.

So last year, I told you that we as pro-family Virginians had a choice. We could allow the frustration we all have felt to drive us to simply give up, see politics as a lost cause, return to our church pews and leave the field. Or, we could regroup, refocus, reshape our message, and work harder than we have ever worked before to make sure that our values are protected. We could ignore the pundits, the politicians and the naysayers and simply outwork those opposed to us.

Of course, there really was no choice. We simply cannot quit at any point, because we know that the values we share are the only values that can save our culture. They are principles that can make the lives of all Virginians better. We have positive solutions to the problems that families face.

Now, a year later, we are on the verge of an election where, perhaps, things will be different. Next week, we may elect pro-family conservatives to all three statewide offices, and even add pro-family legislators. Tonight, we look forward to Election Day with cautious optimism. One might even say we look forward to the future with hope for change. Perhaps, like me, while you anticipate electoral victory, you realize that it is just one small part of the cultural renewal that we seek. Maybe that is why, tonight, my enthusiasm for candidates is tempered by the knowledge that there is so much more to be done.

Let me make something perfectly clear. The optimism we feel, the anticipation for success, is not built on any single candidate or party. While many in this room are working tirelessly for individual candidates, our hope is not predicated on the person, but on the principles those candidates claim, and their record of action that supports those claims.

Last year, I made a commitment to you that The Family Foundation would not back down, would not quit, but would instead work harder than we ever have before. I pledged to you that we would work to reach more Virginians with the positive message of the sanctity of life, the importance of marriage, of freedom, of liberty. I promised that we would build our network of grassroots supporters. I told you that, through Pastors For Family Values, we would reach more pastors than ever before.

And that’s exactly what we have done. Just look around you this evening. Also, can I have all the pastors that are in attendance please stand so that we may recognize you?

Now, I know that our attendance tonight has just a little bit to do with our speaker, but I also believe it’s because you are committed to the mission of The Family Foundation and the work that we are doing. Tonight is simply a reflection of the value each of us places on this work. A moment of renewal; of celebration; of motivation. Leaving this room last November I know many of us had a renewed excitement, a rekindled dedication, and we got to work.

With that new motivation, this year The Family Foundation and our sister organization The Family Foundation Action undertook the largest and most expensive voter education and voter mobilization campaign in our history, called Winning Matters. Thanks to the help of an organization called Let Freedom Ring, we were given the opportunity to create Winning Matters, and thanks to many of you we met the challenge. This campaign is larger than the marriage amendment campaign of 2006 in both scope and cost. Incredibly, in a time where everyone is feeling the pinch of the recession, we raised the money necessary to meet Let Freedom Ring’s financial match.

Because of many of you in this room, we currently have eleven Winning Matters staff, nine of whom have been working with churches across Virginia, meeting pastors, attending community and political events, using social networking — every tool we can think of — to educate and mobilize our voters. Together, we have contacted more than 4000 churches, distributed over 100,000 GA Report Cards — more than twice as many as ever before — conducted or initiated hundreds of voter registration drives; we’ve identified over 40,000 pro-family Virginians who weren’t registered and mailed them forms and encouraged them to register and vote.

Over the course of this week we will be doing several Get Out The Vote Phone calls with Chuck Colson, Mike Huckabee and Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King. And we will be mailing thousands of voter education pieces to key House districts where pro-family conservatives are on the ballot. As we speak we are distributing nearly 1 million voter guides in 38 races to educate voters, including a Spanish statewide Voter Guide. For the first time this year we have also created a video Voter Guide to distribute virally through social networking sites.

We know that pro-family voters make the difference in every election, either by showing up, or not. We can honestly say that this election season pro-family voters have no excuse. They will be registered, educated and mobilized like never before.

But while we anticipate the success of pro-family candidates one week from now, we must remember that this is not the conclusion of our work, it is the beginning. One need only remember that just a few short years ago many of us celebrated the reelection of George Bush, anticipating the success of our principles. And while we were rewarded with two principled Supreme Court justices, we also became frustrated by someone who saw government as the solution to our economic troubles instead of the cause. We must remember that the terms “bailouts” and “stimulus package” didn’t start with President Obama, but instead with someone that many of us in this room helped get elected.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the first time we’ve been let down by those we’ve supported, and it may not be the last. But it is up to us to make it harder for those who claim our values during election season to abandon them once elected.

We expect, we demand, we deserve better. Let me be clear:

We expect that the first budget introduced by the next Governor of Virginia will ban taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

We expect that the first budget introduced by the next Governor of Virginia will fund roads, not the destruction of innocent human life.

We expect that the next Governor of Virginia will restore right of state police chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus.

We expect that the next Governor of Virginia will not stop at Charter Schools, but will open the locked doors of a quality education for all children in Virginia by providing real school choice.

We expect the next Governor of Virginia to reduce, not increase, the tax burden on Virginia’s businesses and families.

We expect the next Governor of Virginia to care more about the culture of Virginia than the road to the White House.

And we will not accept anything less.

But we will not simply leave it in the hands of the elected officials. Honestly, we cannot expect politicians to change the culture alone. I heard a pro-family leader recently who made a very strong statement about politically active Christians. He said that the first people to quit when we lose elections are Christians and the first people to quit when we win elections are Christians.

Again, let me be clear. Regardless of what happens next week, The Family Foundation will not quit. Winning Matters is not the end, it is the beginning.

The Family Foundation works at the place where our culture, our faith, and our politics intersect. While Winning Matters has concentrated on the political side, it is just part of our mission. We know that the only way we can be sure that our values are truly protected is by winning more people to our cause. There are still too many people who share our pews but don’t share our values or that have not joined the battle. We must reach them. One way we are doing this is our new partnership with Focus on the Family to bring The Truth Project, a comprehensive, transformational worldview-training program, to Virginia. We hope that through The Truth Project thousands of Virginians will be challenged to not just confront the culture, but to transform it. Anyone who has been through the Truth Project, or had the privilege of leading it as my husband and I have, know the impact this program can have.

We will continue to build our grassroots networks across Virginia, one chapter, one county, one Virginian at a time. We will continue to challenge pastors to speak truth to power through Pastors For Family Values. And let me just say how thrilled I am to announce tonight that Bishop Earl Jackson has agreed to be the new Chaplain for The Family Foundation and in that role the new leader of Pastors For Family Values.

Of course, we will continue to do what we do best. We will be there on January 13th when the General Assembly comes to town, advocating for your values in the hallways of the General Assembly building. Legislators can count on seeing our faces as they walk through the capitol building. We will continue to generate tens of thousands of e-mails from people just like you to our elected officials on the legislation, the issues, you care so passionately about. That isn’t going to change.

On the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Adams wrote a letter to his beloved wife Abigail. His words ring as true for us more than two hundred years later:

I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means.

As we gaze into the future it is clear that the work we have before us is great, and will cost us dearly. Yet while we have been called to this arena we call politics, while we work day in and day out to affect our culture though civic activism, and that means asking our elected officials to battle on our behalf, our hope, our trust, cannot rest entirely on them. Our trust, our hope, must be on the One who is greater than any. The light and glory that John Adams spoke of came from a recognition that the new nation he was part of founding was birthed with a reliance on God.

The foe they faced was so much greater than we could ever imagine. This rag tag group of independent colonists that bickered among themselves and could agree on little was facing the greatest nation and greatest army on earth. No one in their right mind thought they would be victorious. But we know on whom the Founding Fathers relied.

I am reminded of the words of Psalm 20:

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Tonight, as we look toward the future, while we anticipate new successes, as we hope for a renewal of our culture with the values we hold dear, let us do so with the knowledge and comfort that comes from knowing the one true God of the universe. Yes, we have a duty to carry His banner not just in our homes and churches, but also in our offices, our communities, and our government. And carry that banner we will, with truth and with grace. We will fight with chariots and horses, but we will trust in our God.

Thank you and God bless you.

"These United Colonies Are, And Of Right Ought To Be, Free And Independent States"

Today is the day that John Adams wrote would be our national day. For good reason. Today was the day in 1776 that the Continental Congress passed a certain Virginian's resolution declaring independence from Great Britain. Not Thomas Jefferson. Richard Henry Lee. This resolution broke the bonds with the mother country. It was incorporated into the document that stated the reasons for our revolutionary break and our principles upon which the new country would stand — the Declaration of Independence.

The Lee Resolution said:

That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent states; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown; and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

The Declaration, including this phrase, was adopted later, and not made official until signed by Congress' president, John Hancock, on July 4. Many of the Signers did not affix their names until August, and others still later.

Today, as well as the 4th, is a time for reflection on this country — its past and the blood spilled and toil given to create and preserve it — and prayer in thanksgiving for the greatness that it has become and for those who have guaranteed it through their sacrifice, as well as for its future. It's a time to think about the meaning of our country's founding and its founding principles. For us Virginians, it's also a time of pride and reflection on our Commonwealth's great contributions to the creation of this blessed country and all those since — and that continue today — that have so enriched America. 

On behalf of The Family Foundation of Virginia, we wish everyone a safe, fun and patriotic Independence Day Weekend. 

From Tony Perkins, Family Research Council

A Open Letter From Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, On The Meaning Of Independence Day

In a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams told her of the actions of the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. "The second day of July, 1776 [the actual day the Declaration was adopted], will be the most memorable epoch 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 Deliverance, 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 the continent to the other, from this time forward forever."

As we celebrate Independence Day, as John Adams so aptly predicted, we must not forget nor overlook the intense struggle our Founding Fathers faced. Their Christian faith played a critical role in an era that altered the history of the world.

There is not a better example of this seamless devotion to God and country than Samuel Adams. In his time, Sam was far more famous than his cousin, John. Sam was known as the last of the great Puritans and the father of the Revolution. It was Sam Adams who organized the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence. (By the way, if you're going out to a Tea Party on Saturday, historians believe that the first tea party, the one in Boston, was organized by Samuel Adams. It was that Boston Tea Party that lit the fuse of the American Revolution).

When Sam Adams was elected to that First Continental Congress and traveled to the gathering of leaders in Philadelphia, he thought the Continental Congress needed to begin its work on its knees — in prayer. But when the motion was made to call in a local clergyman to lead the worship, John Jay of New York and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina objected. We are too diverse, they said. We could never agree on whose prayers to say.

Rising to his feet, Sam Adams spoke: "I am no bigot," he said, "I can hear the prayer of any man of piety and virtue who is a friend to his country." Deeply moved, the delegates voted to approve Sam Adams' idea. The next morning, amid reports of the British moving against the people of his hometown of Boston, Sam knelt in prayer with his fellow delegates, as the Rev. Jacob Duch? prayed. "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me, and fight against them that fight against me."

That inspired move by Sam Adams did much to overcome suspicions among the delegates. Joseph Reed of Philadelphia called that prayer "a masterly stroke." Those Founding Fathers could now work together for liberty.

Soon, Sam Adams would sign the Declaration of Independence. Alongside Sam Adams' name you can find that of Charles Carroll, a delegate from Maryland. Carroll was the richest man in Congress and the only Roman Catholic. Nowhere else on earth in 1776 could you find an Evangelical like Sam Adams pledge "his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" alongside a Catholic like Charles Carroll. They both risked death by hanging for signing that great Declaration. But they served the King of Kings and had no fear of King George III.

In our efforts to maintain the freedoms won by our forefathers we must be like them — people of action and prayer. We must never sever our personal faith from our public stand for faith, family and freedom.

After we celebrate our independence as a nation on Saturday, I invite you to join thousands of Christians from across the nation on Sunday as they fall on their knees in prayer as a part of FRC's Call2Fall, declaring their dependence upon God, just like our Founding Fathers.

July 2, 1776

It was today, in 1776, that the United States was born. The 13 soon-to-be states represented in the Continental Congress, voted unanimously (with New York abstaining) for Virginia's resolution, introduced by Richard Henry Lee, that claimed:

These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. 

A concise, but full political decapitation from Great Britain and its monarchy. Separating from a royal sovereign was unprecedented in the history of the world and its causes. Who can suggest what it must have felt like for those men to literally put their necks on the line? For as Benjamin Franklin said:

We must now all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.

There must have been at least a momentary silence in reflection of the magnitude, then the chill of the what have we done and what do we do now?, before these very learned yet practical men regained themselves to muster the practical duties of initiating a new nation: For how many people in all of mankind can claim to have broken absolutely with all that had been known of governance to establish something something completely different, something not yet even contemplated, and chart for themselves and future generations an unheard of self governance?

More than 230 years later, we take light-hearted amusement at Dr. Franklin's humor. At the time, it was gallows humor. When the 5o-plus who amended, then voted to adopt, the Declaration of Independence two days later (it wasn't signed by all until August), their lives truly were at risk. By participating in Congress and signing the Declaration, they created their own treason warrants, knew it, and offered all for what they believed . . .

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

These men are very easy to take for granted today, reduced as they are to portraits, cash and actors portraying them. What they did seems so easy, so inevitable, as if watching a movie where we've seen the ending. But it was nothing like that. It truly was uncommon courage to tell the biggest guy on the block to leave, we're taking over and leave the signed note on his door. The World Turned Upside Down, indeed.

John Adams and many others figured this was the day that would be celebrated for generations:

The second day of July, 1776, 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 deliverance, 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 forevermore.

Separation was no result of political machinations as we know them today. This was a long, thoughtful, evolutionary decision. The Continental Congress met in 1774, after years of British abuses, to bring a unified front for the colonies' grievances and petitions to Parliament. The Continental Army was created and engaged the British long before "Independency" was decided. There were many in Congress who fought against separation and, in the country, many were opposed or at least indifferent to the notion. In the end, Independence was the only course. Only today does it seem predestined. The Declaration was the legal brief explaining to the world — complete with the "Facts" of the case and the jury's decision — the action of July 2: 

. . . a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 

And:

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

If possible, read the Declaration in its entirety this weekend, preferably on the 4th. It puts that July 2 vote into perspective, puts you into the minds of those who adopted it and gives you an appreciation of what they did, how they did it and who they stood up to. It will give you pause and reflection and meaning, and kindle your nerves and a subtle emotion.

Then, when you can steal a minute of thoughtfulness as the fireworks explode overhead, during the band's patriotic medley, a moment away from the grill or during a break in the game, just ponder its words: "When in the course of human events . . . ." and what and how those events unfolded and what they mean for us today. It will bring fulfilllment and meaning to your holiday, whether you partake in celebratory festivities or cool relaxation.

From The Family Foundation of Virginia, please accept our wishes for a safe, happy and fun Independence Day weekend.