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Happy Fourth of July

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.

– Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis”


At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.

-Abraham Lincoln, Lyceum address


You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

-Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nobel lecture


28 comments on “Happy Fourth of July”

  1. Idealist says:

    +1 to the Solzhenitsyn quote. Applicable in multiple disciplines, and an ideal to strive for.

  2. Larry says:

    “If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than live as slaves.” —Winston Churchill

    1. Anon says:

      Interesting then to think how long after US independence came the abolition of slavery?

      1. MrRogers says:

        In many states (e.g. Massachusetts), it was begun or completed at the end of the Revolutionary war (1783), i.e. at the first opportunity. In other places in the US, abolition was completed later (1865) and at much greater cost. In the UK (where Churchill was Prime Minister) abolition occurred in 1834. Slavery was illegal throughout Churchill’s lifetime (1874-1965) in both his mother’s and father’s countries.

      2. anon3 says:

        Not sure what you mean? The northern states abolished slavery before or very soon after becoming the USA (1789 I think). NJ was the last northern state to do so (1805). England on the other hand didn’t abolish the slave trade till 1804ish. The North then fought a very long and bloody war to end slavery in the South about 70 years after becoming the USA.

        1. Kirsten Emmott says:

          Massachusetts to Virginia

          John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892

          …” What means the Old Dominion? Hath she forgot the day
          When o’er her conquered valleys swept the Briton’s steel array?
          How, side by side with sons of hers, the Massachusetts men
          Encountered Tarleton’s charge of fire, and stout Cornwallis, then?

          Forgets she how the Bay State, in answer to the call 25
          Of her old House of Burgesses, spoke out from Faneuil Hall?
          When, echoing back her Henry’s cry, came pulsing on each breath
          Of Northern winds the thrilling sounds of ‘Liberty or Death!’

          What asks the Old Dominion? If now her sons have proved
          False to their fathers’ memory, false to the faith they loved; 30
          If she can scoff at Freedom, and its great charter spurn,
          Must we of Massachusetts from truth and duty turn?

          We hunt your bondmen, flying from Slavery’s hateful hell;
          Our voices, at your bidding, take up the bloodhound’s yell;
          We gather, at your summons, above our fathers’ graves, 35
          From Freedom’s holy altar-horns to tear your wretched slaves!
          The voice of Massachusetts! Of her free sons and daughters,
          Deep calling unto deep aloud, the sound of many waters!
          Against the burden of that voice what tyrant power shall stand?
          No fetters in the Bay State! No slave upon her land!

          Look to it well, Virginians! In calmness we have borne, 85
          In answer to our faith and trust, your insult and your scorn;
          You’ve spurned our kindest counsels; you’ve hunted for our lives;
          And shaken round our hearths and homes your manacles and gyves!

          We wage no war, we lift no arm, we fling no torch within
          The fire-damps of the quaking mine beneath your soil of sin; 90
          We leave ye with your bondmen, to wrestle, while ye can,
          With the strong upward tendencies and God-like soul of man!

          But for us and for our children, the vow which we have given
          For freedom and humanity is registered in heaven;
          No slave-hunt in our borders,—no pirate on our strand! 95
          No fetters in the Bay State,—no slave upon our land!”

    2. loupgarous says:

      @Anon: When Winston Churchill wrote that, slavery was done in Britain and the United States. Colonialism, Jim Crow and Manifest Destiny, however, had terrible, often lethal effects well into the 20th century.

      But if you’re trying to frame a comparison between the US and Great Britain (that’s what you seem to be doing), weighing two sets of national misdeeds won’t work. The acts in question, while deplorable, are incommensurate and can’t be intelligently compared.

      Freeman Dyson (in his second Sloan Series book, Weapons and Hope) remarked that Britain’s way of ending slavery – paying British slave owners for their freed slaves – had the merit of ending slavery sooner, and with less political strife and bloodshed than attended the South’s defeat in the Civil War. Unfortunately, after 1865, both nations persisted in colonialism and other policies driven by pervasive racism for roughly a century.

      All we can do is what the US and Great Britain wound up doing at that point – to consider our respective nations’ best aspirations and try to do better.

      1. Chris Phoenix says:

        Only a century? How about Latin America in the 80’s and Iraq in the 2000’s?

  3. Skeptic says:

    Thank you Derek and Larry. Truly quotes for our times.

  4. Barry says:

    an apt occasion to revisit seminal texts, still relevant today

    “When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. 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.

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

    For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

    For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — 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.”
    Thomas Jefferson (1776)

    1. Pyro says:

      A lot of those grievances sound all too familiar…

      1. loupgarous says:

        90 years later some of those same Independent States took Jefferson’s language about “We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us” a little too literally.

  5. 48 years ago says:

    “The whole framework of the presidency is getting out of hand. It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip on each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.”

    “McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose, as a matter of policy and a perfect expression of everything he stands for. Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?”

    “The main problem in any democracy is that crowd-pleasers are generally brainless swine who can go out on a stage & whup their supporters into an orgiastic frenzy—then go back to the office & sell every one of the poor bastards down the tube for a nickel apiece.”

    – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72

  6. Grad Student says:

    Having spent most of the night before & day of July 4th in the lab (after the mother of “O Sh*T” moments) performing The Killer Experiment on a project whose manuscript we were close to submitting.. the Solzhenitsyn quote resonates deeply.

    1. luysii says:

      Grad Student — like you I was running a long experiment all day on the fourth in the Mallinckrodt labs (years and years ago). I found a way to get to the top of the building and even inside the cupola that evening,. Fireworks were exploding in every direction and far into the distance. They really knew how to celebrate the 4th in Boston back then and probably still do.

      1. Anonymous says:

        One of Woodward’s PhDs who went on to a famous career of his own described how he and a co-worker were working in the lab (Mallinckrodt basement in the 1950s?) late on a Saturday night – Sunday morning. RBW and Gilbert Stork and their wives had been out clubbing in Boston and stopped by the lab around 2-3 AM to schmooze chemistry. Around 2002 or so, a younger student asked him why they were in the lab at 2 AM? Was RBW a harsh taskmaster who demanded such long hours? Was there competition among students to see who could work the most hours and impress RBW? No. The answer was much simpler. “That’s where we loved to be.” Sic transit gloria mundi.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Happy Holiday, everybody! Trying to stay on topic with Independence AND Democracy, I will add:

    “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Also recently posted In The Pipeline “Varieties of Nonsense” on June 4, 2019.)

    “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  8. Jim Hartley says:

    From a 20th century American humorist:

    “You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” — Erma Bombeck

    1. festus says:

      That’s because it’s a foregone conclusion that the US could kick anyone’s a##es, why bother our military personnel with ridiculous parades when we can just let them enjoy the holiday with their family.

      Freedom ain’t free

  9. steve says:

    “Our Army manned the air, it rammed the ramparts, it took over the airports, it did everything it had to do. And at Fort McHenry, under the rockets’ red glare, had nothing but victory. When dawn came, the star-spangled banner waved defiant.” I’ll leave it to others to parse out the presence of airports in the 18th century, the difference between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 and other interesting historical allusions.

    1. Barry says:

      lala land
      “…they took the airports!” Now he’s on a roll.
      Trump blithers when he’s got nothing to say.
      His writers cringe; he’s so out of control.
      The tranquiler gun’s too far away.
      Tomorrow, they’ll dismiss it as “a joke”
      “of course the president knows history!”
      But shit he makes up when he’s high on coke
      affords his critics much hilarity.
      Mike Pence must know the 25th by rote
      and how succession works when it’s the case
      when there’s no time to put it to a vote.
      But Trump’s more functional than half his Base.
      The satirists are drowning in their cups
      When Trump’s reality’s what he makes up.

      1. steve says:

        It was all because of a faulty teleprompter. My god man – what do you want from him? Do you really expect him to think?

    2. Annonned says:

      I am not certain which worries me more, that this is the President or the people who were applauding him and saying that this was a good speech. The two together are just sad.

  10. Rob Usiskin says:

    I cannot find the third quote in Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel lecture:

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      It’s near the end – the Nobel site’s translation is different (his speech was in Russian). Search for “but not with my help”.

      1. Rob Usiskin says:

        Found it — different translation, identical meaning. Thanks!

        1. sgcox says:

          Took me some time too and I am Russian speaker 🙂

          “And the simple step of a simple courageous man is not to partake in falsehood, not to support false actions! Let THAT enter the world, let it even reign in the world – but not with my help.”

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