"... our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Independence Day, 2013. "From the mountains, to the prairies, To the oceans white with foam...."
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author's program note. She made the request as if she thought I might deny it, as if I might deem it inappropriate for a business website. However, if she thought this, she didn't think it for long. "Of course you should read the Declaration of Independence in the Live Business Center. I'm only irritated that I didn't think of it myself." And thus did Barbara Buegeler, Senior Monitor in Worldprofit's LBC, do what every Citizen should do one day each year this day: that is not just to think about this exalted document, but to actually read it aloud as our ancestors used to do, beginning on July 4, 1776.
Sadly, most people do nothing, no thought, no reading, no consideration at all of one of history's signature documents, the document that laid the revolutionaries' case, our case, before the bar of public opinion worldwide, thereby not only alerting our English masters that a new reality was at hand, but every oppressive government wherever it might be, not just then but forever after.
And so the lady from rural Texas began to read, each word famous, but some touched by God Himself...
"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 this 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."
Having thus forthrightly stated their risky intentions through the genius of young Thomas Jefferson (just 33 at the time he put quill pen to paper) the members of Congress assembled; each now a marked man, a man venturing everything that makes life comfortable and sweet, thrilled to the riff each hoped would unify 13 fractious colonies; the riff that would forever brand George, by the Grace of God, King as the very archetype of tyranny, when in fact he was anything but.
To make his point and to foment the revolution to which he and his resolute colleagues were committed, he did what all revolutionaries do: he contorted the truth. He exaggerated, misstated, rearranged, and reshaped, the better to achieve his treasonous goal. For make no mistake about it, these were men who were playing for the biggest stakes and were betting everything on being right, for the consequences were staggering if they were not, for each one individually and for all collectively.
And so Jefferson, a world-class propagandist, gifted with the power of words, took sharp aim at his anointed sovereign, never mind that hapless monarch and the monster of iniquity conceived and portrayed by Jefferson had virtually nothing in common. No matter.
Thus, at least 18 times in prose that grew in harshness and intensity with each new clause beginning "He has...", Jefferson walloped his king and liege lord, the man, he asserted, who never tired of menacing, upsetting, exasperating and even destroying the colonies which were the jewels in his imperial crown. Thus....
"He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary to the public good"... to... "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."
It was splendid, masterful invective, broad, audacious, designed to outrage and turn every colonial, no matter how disengaged, loyal and pacific, into a fervent partisan, a new breed called Americans.
However, there was a problem, a big problem. The real king George III and Jefferson's bogeyman were not the same person... no way. How to handle this conundrum? Lie. For after all, if a man is proposing treason, what matter a lie or two? You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs.
About the King, a true revolutionary himself.
But if Jefferson had carefully distorted his facts, sometimes in degree, sometimes in veracity, sometimes by a word or two of artful arrangement, sometimes false in every particular, who then was the man for whom his subjects worldwide sang "God Save The King"?
That man, George William Frederick (1738-1820) was the product of revolution, the heir of revolution, the living pledge of revolution and the man whose very life confirmed that the promise and settlement of the great and Glorious Revolution of 1688 abided; that the sovereign reigned but ruled as little as Parliament allowed, and that year by year was less and less.
For this revolution, lead by renegade aristocrats, assured the final victory of Parliament over Crown, thus turning this Crown, however radiant and burnished into the creature of the people and their potent legislature, from whence came everything, including whatever colonial policy they thought best, whatever obstreperous colonials might think.
And this presented Thomas Jefferson with a stupendous, daunting problem which would surely have confounded and thwarted many a lesser man. What's more Jefferson had many other things on his always active mind. For one thing, he was physically uncomfortable as all the delegates were. It was insufferably hot in Philadelphia those crucial days of argument and revolution. Delegates grew irritable from tossing night after miserable night, unable to find the rest they sorely needed for matters of such high
Worse, they discovered the tenacious presence and bite of bed bugs, determined creatures, no respecters of persons or causes, savoring the flesh of delegates, happy in their work.
Then there was the matter of his parlous financial condition. Throughout his long life, Jefferson lived like the wealthy man he never was. He spent money he didn't have, borrowing money he had no way, and perhaps no intention, of paying back. He was well acquainted with duns pestering him for long overdue sums. And so it was in Philadelphia, where its many Quaker residents curiously adhered to the quaint notion that what was borrowed needed to be repaid in timely fashion, a point of view entirely
foreign to Jefferson, a man of careless finances and high living.
But there was another reason, too, and that was his beloved wife, Martha Wayles Skelton, who was a 23-year-old widow when he married her January 1, 1772. Theirs was a love match with all that entailed and in the long, uncomfortable nights he missed her to the core of his ardent being and longed for her passionate embraces. Remember, he was just 33...
However, the revolution needed him and so he put his genius to work crafting the words of revolution. Fortunately he had opponents who were not remotely as gifted in that department, opponents who failed to answer Jefferson and his colleagues, and so lost the crucial battle for hearts and minds. Jefferson made a brilliant case; his opponents relied on their established rights and disdained the messy business of human persuasion. And this wasn't remotely good enough.... as the loyal royalists learned to their eternal detriment and rue.
This brings us to the very antagonist Jefferson might have wished to have...
Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, Knight of the Garter, Privy Councillor (1732-1792) known to history by his courtesy title, Lord North, the man who, along with his dread lord, threw away the greatest of empires. His tenure in office running from 1770 to 1782 was disastrous for the Crown and the greatest possible benefit to Jefferson and the Great Republic which grew from the great Declaration. In short Jefferson and his colleagues lucked out, and as Napoleon later said, "Give me the lucky man." That was most assuredly Jefferson, most assuredly not North.
And the sad thing is, North knew it and often begged his sovereign for permission to resign. But the King wanted a man as prime minister he trusted, and that was North, a man of no vision, no knowledge of Americans and the colonies, without empathy, inspiration or the ability to cut a deal that would keep them British. He pleased the king and so his majesty kept the man congenial to him, catastrophic to his realm. How Jefferson, brilliant, dazzling, splendid Jefferson must have whooped at his unrivalled fortune in having such a hack, such a mediocrity as his opponent...
Thus was the greatest empire sundered; thus did the Great Republic grow apace, the one lead by the blind and inadequate, the other driven by determination, brains, and growing expertise in the artistry of revolution. In such circumstances, the English could not prevail; they had so little to offer whilst the revolutionaries promised everything including "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", the hand that trumped
"God Bless America!"
Thus we arrive at today by stages short and long, difficult and easy, losing and winning, proud and abasing. But always important and influential for such is our destiny, and we must play it out. But I have this question for you, my reader, my every reader. How can we do so with massive ignorance about who we are, where we came from, what we have done and why it matters, for that is our painful and dangerous situation today when so little is known of America and that little so often wrong. How long can we sustain our might and mission under such enfeebling circumstances... and how can we possibly help the world and be that bright city while presenting such a poor and tawdry example?
That is why I urge you to read the great Declaration aloud and help rescue the Great Republic from her sad plight today, so dangerous, so inglorious, so abashing in every way.
Then go to any search engine, and find Irving Berlin's great hymn to the Great Republic, "God Bless America," first written in1918, revised in 1938. I recommend the stirring version by Kate Smith, a chanteuse who belted it out and brought a tear to the eye of every true American, every lover of freedom, and every citizen trustee for our great story,
"Through the night with a light from above".
Independence Day 2013. On the road again. Manchester-by-the-Sea. And a grande dame with the gift of friendship and joy. Come and get acquainted.
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant.
Author's program note. Aime' Joseph never ceases to amaze me, and of the
foundations for lasting friendship that felicitous agility is surely one of the best.
Knowing my habits, the need to have everything about the new tale, the current article
readily at hand, even old napkins, smudged and ripped, valuable artifacts notwithstanding so long as they contain a single indecipherable letter, for my handwriting has never risen above the abashed level of execrable; given these habits, I say, I shouldn't have been surprised that he had dropped over with a paper in one hand, a question in the other.
It's the kind of good deed he does and why I permit him to raid the refrigerator with
impunity, leaving me to wail from time to time, "But I was saving that ginger beer...",
giving the strongest possible impression that my bite is indeed worse than my bark,
but even I don't believe it.
He knows this and at the earliest possible moment restarts his researches
into and acquisitions from the food and wine which I always purchase in far too
ample quantities for the amount I eat and the nullity I drink.
This, of course, provides the rationale he needs for raids which would impress a
Viking, though in truth the fact he is my constant helper and friend provides all the
reason he'll ever need... although I do wish he'd ask before gallivanting home with the
last morsel or drop of any much craved delicacy.
"Do you need this?"
And, of course, I did... for this tale of Independence Day 2013 would never
have taken place -- for me -- without it and the grande dame who mailed it
and so literally made my day. Here is what it looked like. Here is what it said.
"Generations, Friends, Families. Please join us!"
There then followed explicit directions of what these generations, friends, and
families must do in the matter of furnishing food ("your favorite and a little extra
to share"), and drink ("Also your favorite and a little extra to share")... with further
detailed instructions on such critical matters as "places to swim, eat, sit, chat,
rest, sing, ice, cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons", and the most important directive
and admonition of all... to bring your crucial holiday spirit and so increase its already
ample measure stemming principally from our hostess, Diane Neal Emmons.
Distinctive right from the start.
Did you pronounce her first name DIE ANN. Of course you did. I did when first
introduced. The world does, but you, me and the wide generality of the planet,
all of us, are mistaken. For she pronounces it DEE ON and woe to thems who gets
it wrong, for as every Eskimo knows, a name is totemic, the thing that holds your
spirit and first tells the world who you are, where you have come from, and where
you are going.
In this way, with this subtle variation, Diane (did you pronounce it correctly this time?)
announced that she was not and would never be of the humdrum, prosaic or everyday
variety of mere Dianes, much less (horror of horrors) of the Dee Dees who derive
therefrom; that she was instead something quite different, distinguished, unique; though
as a lady to the manner born she couldn't possibly tell you this. You'd have to find out for
yourself, if only you had the good sense and good manners to do so. And so are the real
gems separated and higher valued than the baubles who, at first, seem the same.
The happiest girl in the neighborhood, maybe the happiest girl in the world.
I don't have any proof for what I am about to say, no proof at all. However, people
like me, called commentators are given wide latitude and what is called "the benefit
of the doubt" in advancing their cases; in other words so long as what we write is
not specious in the extreme or wildly implausible we may dream, wonder, ruminate
and speculate to our heart's content. I am about to use that privilege here....
There is something larger than life about Diane, and this is especially true when
she first glimpses you. There is in that moment the ghost of Ezio Pinza singing
"Some enchanted evening."
You sense rather than see that her eyes light up and she is no longer that woman of
a certain age, but a girl in flying dance slippers with bright pink ribbons in the much
considered hair of a twelve year old; the twelve year old who greets you like a favored
child greets her favorite relation with nothing more troubling on her youthful horizon
than who to ask to the Sadie Hawkins dance in just two weeks.
When you are the boy who receives this high energy treatment, you think, no you know
that you are the boy she'll invite... and that you'll have a spiffing good time, because Diane
knows to her fingertips how to make sure you -- and everyone else -- leaves happy and
recalls each event with a smile. It is her special secret, and you are glad she is lavishing
Fashionably late and better so.
People who run 24-hour-a-day Internet enterprises learn to be approximate in the
matter of time; technology, after all, is a capricious mistress, smooth running one
minute, causing mayhem the next, even on holidays when one is expected out of
town at a particular time. "Technology is great when it works." Thus my party,
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and I left late... and arrived as my grandmother used to say
"fashionably late." This proved to be a good thing, since many guests having
partaken of luncheon under a tent most often used at weddings and anniversaries
went home to laze the blistering afternoon away dozing in the shade. And thus both
Josephs and I were able to spend more time with the hostess, a happy result of
But first I had literally to sing for my supper.
"Songs to Sing When Two or Three or More are Gathered Together."
Open upon my desk now is a thin volume of the name above, a volume compiled
by Diane and providing numerous clues to the lady and her metier. It is her personal
song book, and it is both curious and touching. Diane, you see, is of the generation
where people entertained each other by each being responsible (particularly young ladies
of good family like Diane) for an enjoyable rendezvous, with and for only the right people,
which for this lady and her friends, meant prep schools like Winsor and Groton,
colleges like Radcliffe and Harvard, social clubs like Chilton and Somerset, and
above all the Mayflower Club always remembering that if you must inquire about it,
you were most decidedly NOKD, "not our kind, dear."
The Kennedys, not yet with a postal code in Camelot were in this category, and in the
Irish way their revenge was thorough and hurtful, not least because they soon shunted
the old families of the Commonwealth (called Brahmins) aside and to the rest of the world
portrayed themselves as Bay State aristocrats, which caused society matrons on
Commonwealtlh Avenue to fume... and plot revengeful motifs they no longer had the
money, power or unquestionable social position to dictate.
Diane Emmons was caught up in this sea change in Boston. She was born to
adorn a particular universe and that universe was changed beyond recognition.
It was a world into which you were born, where acceptance was automatic and
life long for those with the right surname and genetic code. Never mind It was often dull,
dowdy, smug and insular, none of which mattered to the people who wanted entree they
would probably never get until club revenues fell and provided a compelling reason
for new members mere equity could never provide.
"In" could only be valuable in relation to who was "Out", a fact which social novelist
Frances Parkinson Keyes (1885-1970) captured to a nuance, in books like "Joy Street".
This street on Beacon Hill was cut in half, the top socially acceptable; the bottom mixed
and dubious. I wrote my first book in an apartment well down from the acme, yet adored
for all that.
She must have regretted at least some of the changes, but her Fairy Godmother
made sure she had the one essential feature she needed to live through such
massive change and come through it smiling, albeit saddened by the loss of what was
after all her birthright and cherished reality... now just so much ancient history, gone with
the wind. Her great attribute? She liked people and people liked her. In the truest tradition of real ladyship, Diane took pains to help when she didn't have to; assisted beyond the call of duty so many charitable endeavors; and always, always had time for
that far-flung and heterogeneous group, her Friends, of which I proudly call myself
With a song in my heart... and nowhere else.
Ever since I was a child at church, I have been rebellious and adamant on the matter
of group singing: quite simply, I hate it, not merely because I am unable to carry a tune
in a bucket, but because when one sings in any venue even remotely public one is
expected to boom out the song in question, your role (happy, amorous, joyous, sad,
whatever) determined by just what you're singing and always overdone.
Instead of entering into the spirit of the enterprise, I did everything imaginable to ensure
that any such involvement would only be by force and after a masterful display of temper
and high volume obstinacy.
Diane, of course, loves to sing, never mind that her voice is reminiscent of a species of
frog found only in the swimming pools of the well heeled. She is awful... However, she
believes in the social utility of what she is doing... and, as hostess, she is unrelenting in
"persuading" her guests into her unyielding view that group singing on very hot holidays
is a privilege, not cruel and unusual punishment to be avoided at all cost, which is my
abiding take on the matter.
But I am a guest, I aim to please, even if I transgress against my core beliefs... and
so I sing... about 15 words or so of "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."
It is one of the most insipid tunes ever composed, therefore popular with people for whom
their inexhaustible jauntiness and perkiness is a gift from on high, to be celebrated
whenever possible around those of a sarcastic and insufficiently civic spirited demeanor.
That would be me, and it is a measure of how highly I esteem my hostess and her chipper
orientation that I sang and clapped at all, never mind with tepid demeanor. I knew my rights and obligations as guest, and calibrated my finger movements and strain on my vocal chords accordingly. And so, obdurate, I listen to -- but do not sing, warble or chant -- the eccentric litany in the song book that jumps from "Blue Moon" to "Chattanooga Choo Choo" to "Good Night, Irene."
Diane was zealous but she had long odds against her, the day sultry, the repast generous,
delicious, ancient guests drowsy, eyes determined to close, collective nap time at hand.
Then there it was... the perfect song for the day, the hostess, every visitor and even
for me, hardened city dweller and professional scoffer determined to stay an anthropologist, watchful but disengaged.
"What would you think if I sang out of tune/Would you stand up and walk out on me?/
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song/And I'll try not to sing out of key"...
And then the words that define us all:
"Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends."
Better because of DEE ON.
As I looked around the backyard of her rambling colonial-style home just blocks
from the well-known Singing Beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea (officially incorporated
in 1645) I saw it populated by her friends, old, young, some vibrant and running over
with high animal spirits, some for whom moving at all, especially on such a stifling
day, was a labor... I thought of how lucky the human is who can conjure so many
and make them sing this song first written in mid-March 1967 by John Lennon
and Paul McCartney.
Just click on the link below and hear it all over again and ask yourself if you've
been a good friend today, the kind of friend you'd like to have, the kind of friend well
deserving of your esteem and high regard, the kind of friend I am so lucky to have in
Diane Neal Emmons... the one person I am prepared to sing for, out of key of course,
but completely sincere... and grateful.
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.