July 4th is more than a day to celebrate our legacy of independence. More importantly, it is a time to affirm what that legacy is and to teach it to our children. What is it that our forefathers were willing to die for? What principles motivated them to pledge their honor and sacrifice their lives and fortunes? In the Declaration of Independence, they declared that our rights come from God and that proper government is instituted for and limited to protecting those rights. They went on to establish our Republic by limiting the federal government through the U.S. Constitution.
In President George Washington’s Farewell Address he commends the benefits of the federal government. "The unity of government... is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence...of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize." The unimagined present day trillion dollar bail-outs, government buy-outs of once private sector industries, wide-spread home foreclosures, and our troops engaged in occupying foreign nations brings to mind a much earlier republic.
Fasces At The House Of Representatives
The Roman Republic began and flourished based upon that same principle of just enough federal government to provide unity to its provinces. You may recognize their ancient symbol, the fasces. The many rods representing the sovereign states have in the midst of them an axe representing the national strength derived from their unity. The thin cord which holds the rods together as a bundle represents the minimal amount of federal government necessary to maintain that unity. This tenet of unity is deservedly extolled by Washington.
Learning from history that "the essence of freedom is the proper limitation of government," our forefathers chose this symbol based upon this original meaning and placed it in the House of Representatives directly behind the Speaker of the House. Two fasces on either side of the American flag were placed there as a constant reminder for future members of Congress to restrain their legislative passions and spending. This same symbol was also chosen for our silver U.S. Mercury dimes (1916-1945).
Mercury Dime with Fasces
A federal government, limited to its bare essentials, coupled with the fundamental premises that individual’s rights come from God and governments are instituted solely to protect those rights, is the unique foundation which defines America. Americans prospered to become the envy of the world even more quickly and prominently than Rome had.
Generations of Romans gradually forgot their founding principles thereby setting the stage for a succession of the Caesars and Rome’s ultimate collapse. Although originally representing minimal federal government, the fasces was so closely identified with Rome itself that the symbol’s perception changed to mean authoritarianism as Rome went from republic to empire. Twentieth century dictators chose the symbol to obscure their totalitarian crimes. The result is that today virtually every definition found for the symbol is one of forceful domination despite its noble beginning.
If Washington were to look at that thin cord on the fasces today, to his horror, he would see instead what has morphed into a heavy chain extending beyond the States onto the ankles of future generations of Americans. He would see a federal government dominating virtually every aspect of Americans’ lives and livelihoods. He would see a federal government dictating to the once sovereign States how they will govern under the threat of losing federal funding. Like Esau in Genesis, we have traded our precious heritage, purchased at the dear price of lives, blood, treasures, prayers, and tears, for a "bowl of pottage". Subsidies, entitlements, earmarks, bailouts, and the thousands of other string-laden handouts, not specifically delegated to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution, smother liberty in direct violation of the 10th Amendment. ("The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.")
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
- Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Let us not permit our ignorance or apathy to deprive our progeny of freedom’s blessings. We must not be timid when it comes to preserving liberty. We must not let our Republic continue to follow in the footsteps of Rome. We must boldly insist that our elected Representatives honor their oath to our sacred founding documents by restraining their legislative passions to within those narrow constitutional boundaries.
Jefferson also wrote: "It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country." During this July 4th barbeque why not establish a new tradition? Ask for a moment of reverence and read the Declaration of Independence to your guests. If you would like a copy of the Declaration and U.S. Constitution, please call 609-501-3341. We will mail you a free booklet immediately.
Peter. F. Boyce
NJ-2nd Congressional District Coordinator