On July 2nd, 1776, the American Continental Congress voted for independence from Great Britain, setting in motion a chain of events that would give birth to the United States. The next day, John Adams, founding father and future president, wrote to his wife Abigail:
“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 solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more…”
Two days later, the Declaration of Independence was signed. While Adams miscalculated which date would be the most remembered, he was right about one thing: the commemoration of the decision in favor of America’s independence has been our country’s singular national holiday for the better part of two centuries.
Whatever your opinions of America’s founders and their great political experiment, one thing is certain: never has a nation been more prosperous, powerful, or afforded so many opportunities to its citizens and to those who would journey from across the world to make this great land their home.
But we would do well to think back to the often-told story of Benjamin Franklin, who, when exiting the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was approached by a group of citizens who wanted to know what had been going on inside. When asked what sort of a government the framers had settled on, Franklin is said to have responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
What Franklin knew then — and what Americans have come to discover — is that secular, pluralistic, representative government is a wily beast indeed. John Adams, too, recognized the dangers inherent in the nation they had labored to piece together from an amalgam of enlightenment philosophy, deism, and post-reformation, disestablishment Christianity. In a message to the officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Massachusetts Militia, he wrote:
Should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. (Emphasis added)
And isn’t this precisely the point at which we have arrived? “Practicing iniquity and extravagance”, “rioting in rapine and insolence”, and unable to contend “with human passions unbridled by morality and religion”?
We are, as the Roe v. Wade decision drove home with a hammer blow 42 years ago, as countless lawsuits, elections, and court cases have reminded us of since, and as Obergefell v. Hodges at last indisputably confirmed, no longer a moral and religious people. We have become a nation of lawlessness – civil, natural, and moral.
Catholics have always had a deeply-ingrained respect for monarchy, which flows from our understanding of authority and its origin in God, as well as our profound reverence for Christ the King. With these considerations in mind, it is not my purpose here to debate the moral justifications for the American Revolution or the rejection, on the part of the American founders, of their monarch. We may content ourselves for the time being with a rhetorical acceptance of their stated justification for actions which, should they have failed, would have resulted in the ultimate penalty for treason: “We must all hang together,” Franklin told his fellow signers of the Declaration, “or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
For what cause were they willing to take this risk? For freedom from tyranny. As the revolutionaries declared:
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.
Which “abuses and usurpations” of the king did these men lament? Among them were these, which sound alarmingly familiar:
- A refusal of “Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
- The forbidding of “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 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.”
- “For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”
- “For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury”
- “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments”
While the application of these grievances has changed, the effects are unmistakably similar. Of particular note is the final point excerpted, “taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments”.
Ours is a nation of lawlessness, of contempt for our own Constitution, of executive fiat, legislative recklessness, and an imperial judiciary that makes laws from whole cloth. The men who laid the foundations of this nation as a countervailing force against tyranny were, I believe, well-intentioned, but they created a slow-growing monster of even more fearsome mien. For now, we live beneath the ever-menacing jackboot of despotism while we deceive ourselves into believing that we are the ones who rule. We have our bread and circuses, we vote for people whom we neither know nor trust, we advocate for a religious liberty that treats the True Faith as least among equals (and now, not even that) and we are no longer “slouching towards Gomorrah,” but in its midst.
The dream of our once-great nation has slipped through our fingers like sifted ash, but we did not notice, placated as we were before our ever-glowing screens.
We have traded freedom for comfort, and we have medicated the brave into quiet acquiescence. We have elected tyrants who sit on gilded thrones, flattering us with platitudes of popular power as they draw the noose tighter by the day. We are always well-stocked with foreign enemies, which distract us from those domestic. We bear crushing debt, endure state-sanctioned murder and perversity, and find ourselves under the ever-watchful eye of those who have arrogated to themselves the power to determine what we may think, how we may act, the way we may conduct our businesses or educate our children, and what we are allowed to believe.
It is at this point undeniable: we no longer have enough independence left to celebrate. Our shackles may be gilded, but we are fettered nonetheless.
Make no mistake: this is not some futile call to arms. The only revolution is through reform of self; the only effective weapons prayer and penance.
In my home, there will be no festivities this 4th of July, no fireworks. No “pomp and parade,” as Adams would have said. We will still spend time together as a family, but not in celebration; rather, it will be in mourning for what we have lost, and in solemn adoration of our True King. We will call down the help of heaven through Our Lady, under whose Immaculate Conception this land still has its patronage. We will ask Our Blessed Lord to cleanse the demons who now infest our nation – not as invaders, but because we have invited them in.
We are no longer a moral or religious people, though we may yet hope for conversion. Until then, we must face the truth: we have lost our republic, because we failed to keep it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
The Republic has long been long and the democracy now as well. We are under totalitarianism. Christians who live their faith will not be in public office and those who expect conscience rights are out of luck. Decide now for Christ and His holy Church and know there will be a price to pay.
[I will delete this after you have read] The Republic has long been long
Perhaps you meant … has long been gone …?
Secular State necessarily means State if god in place of God. In this way the US is no different from formally atheist nations, which we know are totalitarian.
You have taken my thoughts – especially over the past week – and written them here perfectly. I asked my wife a few days ago, rhetorically, what “independence” are we celebrating, exactly? I will be meeting with my spiritual director priest next week and the first question I plan on asking him is, “What does it mean to be an American anymore?”. And I hope to receive very specific answers in return because I truly don’t know.
I’ll be saving this piece to use for future reference for responses in case anyone accuses me of being anti-American for not celebrating July 4th. It is because I have loved America so dearly that I can no longer, in good conscience, celebrate what it has become. I will be praying along with you, Steve, to be delivered from the demonic madness which has overcome our country. I feel brokenhearted, betrayed, abandoned and furious over our current state and believe that without the prayers of the remaining faithful, we will be truly lost forever. May Almighty God have mercy on all of us.
It’s very difficult to anticipate what comes next. Some think this is the end of America, because it is on the verge of collapse. Others think that it’s the beginning of something new, and far more powerful and totalitarian. It’s difficult to say which is more likely, but my inclination is increasingly towards the latter.
Whatever the case, America as we knew it is over.
I don’t believe America is over as you say. To pray to God our Creator is only the beginning of what needs to be done. Faith without works is dead. The recent SCOTUS decisions, while very concerning, are not the end. It is up to the American citizen to take back this country otherwise the war that was fought more than 200 years ago was for naught. I believe the incident in Charleston SC and the forgiveness and coming together of support for one another is the beginning of the turning back to the traditions and principles of our founders. Only time will tell. Our founders not only wrote a declaration, they acted upon their beliefs and then fought for those beliefs. We believers, that love God, need to do the same.
We Catholics have been lulled into a stupor believing man can govern himself outside of the Natural and Divine Positive Laws. Most have become Protestants or more than willing to compromise the faith in order to “get along” with the enemies of Christ.
Now, more than ever, is the time for all faithful Catholics to get on their knees and pray, sacrifice, and do penance for their own sins and for the sins of the world, and band together as the army of Christ, to bring His Truth and His Light back into the world.
Now, more than ever, is the time all of us strive even harder to live holy and righteous lives, to bring the love of Christ out into our portion of the world in which we live, and if necessary, suffer with grace and humility and sacrifice, for we know that our hope is in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and it is in and through Him that the hearts and minds of the lost are converted.
America flawed from its very foundation [foundational errors abound] and nobody picks good fruit from a bad tree. The experiment to form and govern a nation like America is for all intense and purposes over. If there was ever a republic that looked like it would succeed it was America. The question is whether any republic can succeed at all.
Nations that forget God are doomed to Sheol and unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. [Cf. Ps 9:17 and Ps 127:1].
This nation was born on a false foundation-the foundation of the enemies of Christ and a rejection of God’s Supreme Authority over man. A false foundation may hold up the pillars for a time but living outside of the Truth will always lead to death.
Adams lived long enough to regret the whole experiment. As he confided to Benjamin Rush in 1811: “Have I not been employed in mischief all my days? Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation to the human race and the whole globe ever since? I meant well, however… and awful, dreadful, and deplorable as the consequences have been, I cannot but hope that the ultimate good of the world, of the human race, and our beloved country is intended and will be accomplished by it…” [Spur of Fame, 207].
His hope was in vain. The Revolution had created, not a republic in the classical sense the Founders are said to have intended, but rather, as he admitted five years earlier, a disguised form of mass democracy: “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they have made it, to all intents and purposes, in virtue,spirit and effect, a democracy. We are left without resources but in our prayers and tears, and we have nothing that we can do or say but the Lord have mercy upon us…”
Those are some fantastic quotes. Thank you.