Today was Veterans Day. Today was also week after an election victory and an election defeat.
This was a fateful year ending in a fate filled election. The pundits tell us that in a thousand ways. They boisterously proclaim victory. They mournfully and woefully excuse defeat. They angrily speak of our foolishness or sagely nod to our wisdom. One way or another, they would tell us why one side won, why the other side lost, and of what is to come.
The pundits want to explain the significance of it all. Change! Pundits live for change. Change creates perplexity and fear. Change creates the conditions where the fearful must have someone to tell them what it is all about, someone to lead them by the nose.
Soldiers, the best of them, overcome their fears. Yes, soldiers do look for someone to lead them. When challenged with a hard choice, soldiers look to leaders dedicated to a cause greater than themselves, a cause for which they will sacrifice their wealth and their lives — a cause for which they will devote their sacred honor.
America has many veterans still alive today. These men and women can tell us of great battles and of the long waits between them. They can tell of us why men fought and of the bravery of those who paid the price for our freedom. Yet very few alive today can imagine what it must have been like for our nation’s first veterans, the men who gave birth to our nation. To learn that, we must take heed of the words of a noted historian.
1776 by David McCullough is about the fateful year New World English colonists decided to create a nation of their own. 1776 is about an army of ragtag soldiers and their war for liberty. In battle after battle, the numerically superior, better trained, and better equipped military forces of the British Empire defeated our nation’s first veterans. Yet still these brave and resolute men carried on.
Most usually remember George Washington as the first president of our nation, but he began his leadership role as the first general of its first army, the Continental Army. Washington accepted a role with which he had little experience. An amateur general, Washington made mistakes, and he nearly lead his new nation to defeat. So 1776 is about a year of defeats and hard-learned lessons.
McCullough tells, for example, of Washington’s hopeless effort to defend New York City. Unlike Boston, where Washington succeeded in driving the English away, at New York City the English could use their sea power to the greatest advantage. Thus Washington found himself leading an army outgunned, outmaneuvered, and on the run. Only by the grace of God did enough Washington’s army escape to reform and fight again.
Yet fight they did, and the patriots learned how they could win. McCullough’s book ends with Washington’s victory at Trenton. Most of the summer and during all of the fall the British mauled and chased the Continental Army (see here). As bitter winter weather set in, the British finally relinquished the chase and retired to warm winter quarters. Determined to regain the initiative, Washington launched a surprise attack on Hessian mercenaries, and as the year neared its end, Washington and his army gained a welcome victory on Christmas Day. By then, only the most resolute of patriots remained in Washington’s army. These were tired, cold and hungry men who refused against all common sense to give up a cause they knew to be just. Dedicated to their country and its liberty, such men continued the fight until 1783, when a treaty officially ended the war (See here.).
Like the patriots and loyalists of 1776, we too live a time of choosing. And Conservatives are winning few battles. We are at summer’s end and driven into the wilds. We have only a glimmer, at best, of hope. The proponents of big government have shown us time and time again they can fight us skillfully and will fight us fiercely. If we are ever to win, we must admit we have ahead what will be a long and wearisome campaign. So that we can find the strength to persevere, we must reflect on the examples of old. We must gain wisdom and hope from our nation’s history, its heritage, and the principles upon which our government was founded. Unless we understand the importance of our cause, unless we are committed to liberty, we cannot win.
Like Washington, we also need a strategy. We cannot continue run candidates who will not unflinchingly serve the cause of liberty. To retake our government, we must grow a new generation of Conservative leaders.
Consider again the choice of candidates Republicans offered us during the presidential primaries. Not one genuine Conservative had sufficient stature to offer himself as a serious candidate. If we want to be able to give the People the choice of voting for outstanding Conservatives, men and women the electorate can and will respect, we must commit ourselves to helping Conservatives win local and state offices. We must grow a new generation of leaders from the bottom up.
Thomas Paine dreams of ghosts ready to take him to the gallows and stocks for his
revolutionary beliefs and writings.
Cartoon from here.