Op-Ed: 1775 Came Before 1776

Image Credit: Peter Roan / CC

By Holly Abernathy –

The United States of America, declaring their independence from Great Britain in 1776, does not exist today because the colonies fought to achieve liberty; it exists because they fought to preserve their liberty. 

It would take the settlers, who had arrived more than a century earlier, decades before they were established and secure enough to cut the strings of the royal purse across the pond. Rumblings of revolution began when the colonists believed their self-determined way of life was in jeopardy. Seeds of angst and intimidation were planted and cultivated in the hearts and minds of the early Americans by the British long before the maturation of a declared day of separation. Their autonomy and way of life had come under threat. The freedoms their predecessors had already found and secured long ago were in jeopardy.

The Stamp Act, The Sugar Act, and The Townshend Acts were all events that preceded the American Revolution, but none of these events directly caused it. The revolution had already taken place years before in the hearts and minds of the early Americans. 

In a letter to Thomas Jefferson written in 1815, John Adams said, “What do we mean by the Revolution? It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760-1775 in the course of the fifteen Years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.” 

If the revolution was the birth of a nation, then British tyranny and oppression were its conception and fusion.

The signing of the Declaration of Independence, and all the names that rest beneath the grand finale of these laboriously-contemplated individual words, was the event that culminated a long list of egregious actions performed by the British. This simultaneous ending and beginning were the result of years of increasingly intolerable, smaller events that ultimately led to the issue of civil rights and a government acting without the consent of the governed.

Many of these “governed” young men who fought at Lexington and Concord were people whose fathers and grandfathers “were heirs to all the fireside talk about their rights, civil and ecclesiastical…” as stated by Hon. Mellen Chamberlain of Chelsea in speaking before the Danvers Historical Society on April 19, 1891, at a meeting commemorating the 116th Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, “…heirs to all those sermons in which able ministers had explained the doctrines of religious liberty. I get this partly from history, but my strongest conviction of this truth is from the conversation I once had – and it is one of my cherished recollections – with Capt. Levi Preston, one of those who attacked Lord Percy’s forces at West Cambridge,” Judge Chamberlain stated.  “He said nothing of having been deprived of liberty or property by the Acts of Parliament, but that they did not mean to be; that if the British government had made the taxes higher instead of heavier than before, but without their consent, they would have fought all the same as they did. It was the principle to which they objected.” 

Capt. Levi Preston (born in 1752) was one of the last survivors of the battle of Concord when he was interviewed by Judge Chamberlain sixty-seven years prior to Chamberlain’s address to the Danvers Historical Society in April 1891.

At the time of the interview, Judge Chamberlain was 21 years of age and Capt. Preston was 91. 

“Capt. Preston, what made you go to the Concord fight?”

The old man, bowed with the weight of four-score years and ten, raised himself upright, and turning to me, said, “What did I go for?”

“Yes,” I replied, “My histories all tell me you men of the Revolution took up arms against intolerable oppression. What was it?”

“Oppression, I didn’t feel any that I know of.”

“Were you not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”

“I never saw any stamps and I always understood that none were ever sold.”

“Well, what about the tea tax?”

“Tea tax, I never drank a drop of the stuff, the boys threw it all overboard?”

“But I suppose you have been reading Harrington, Sidney and Locke about the eternal principle of liberty?”

“I never heard of these men. The only books we had were the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ psalms and hymns and the almanacs.”

“Well, then, what was the matter?”

“Young man, what we meant in fighting the British was this: We always had been free and we meant to be free always!”

It’s not 1775 and no rational person is suggesting we “take up arms.” Yet, it’s clear to the entire world that the United States is a troubled nation once more, and we, along with the rest of the world, are being confronted with the meaning and high cost of personal liberty and freedom. Ours is a nation no longer troubled by shades of red from men donned in military coats, representing a nation an ocean away, but by an ominous red backdrop against one of the most revered places in our nation’s history, Independence Hall.

In one of the greatest examples of irony during his time in office, the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, made a stunningly divisive speech (reported by Politico to have been drafted by historian Jon Meacham, who, according to The Hill, refers to Trump supporters as “anguished white guys with lizard brain.” Meacham was also recently appointed to the University of Tennessee’s “bipartisan” Institute for American Civics board, proposed and supported by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee) in the very location where the Founders sought to shake off the bonds of discord and oppression.

Some Republicans compared the images of Biden’s speech to hell and Satan. “He looked like he was in the depths of hell,” Nikki Haley, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and the 116th Governor of South Carolina, said on Fox News. “Satanic ghoul,” tweeted Allie Beth Stuckey, conservative commentator and podcaster of “Relatable,” owned and distributed by Blaze Media. Democrats rebutted with a viral response reminding the “Twitterverse” of Donald Trump’s speech on January 9, 2020 where he spoke of Democrats: “They are vicious, horrible people…they are horrible people…what they do to people is a disgrace, and they stick together.”

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We are once again a nation at war with itself with seemingly no end to the incessant politicization of our fundamental institutions and organizations. Open borders causing chaos and crisis – and  the use of human lives as pawns for political grandstanding, the sexualization of our children and the theft of their innocence, higher taxes in the form of unmanageable inflation for middle and lower class Americans, food and gas prices not seen since the Carter era, strategic oil reserves sent to Ukraine as well as being depleted in order to mask the soaring prices at the pumps, our farmland being sold to the CCP, manufactured energy crisis after crisis, “science” and medical professionals being elevated to deified servants of the state, increasing hostility toward the American church through the verbal vehicle of “Christian Nationalism” and an effective propaganda campaign – the list is exhausting. 

The threat is not coming from across the pond this time. It is coming from within and as the Scripture says in Mark 3:25 “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

Modern day Americans are at a pivotal point in their history, just as the early Americans were in 1775. If, as John Adams stated, “the Revolution is already in the minds of the people,” then perhaps we will understand why the battle for the American heart and mind has been waging for far longer than another “sudden” day of declared separation – or the final submission to a totalitarian state.

Hon. Mellen Chamberlain of Chelsea, in speaking before the Danvers Historical Society, also said of Capt. Levi Preston: “There was another idea prominent in his thoughts, which has impressed me more in later years than it did at the time; that their religious liberties were indissolubly connected with their civil liberties, and, therefore, that it was a religious duty to resist aggressions on their civil rights…”

As nations around the world, particularly Western Civilization, seem to be wrestling with totalitarian aggression, we recall the words of political philosopher and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt: 

“There is a great temptation to explain away the intrinsically incredible by means of liberal rationalizations. In each one of us, there lurks such a liberal, wheedling us with the voice of common sense. The road to totalitarian domination leads through many intermediate stages for which we can find numerous analogues and precedents…What common sense and ‘normal people’ refuse to believe is that everything is possible.”

“Everything is possible.” The words used may have been different when the “normal” early Americans landed on the shores of what is now Virginia and Massachusetts, and modern political ideologies may have had different definitions in 1775, but the human desire and disposition to be free as God intended has remained the same.

In the words of Capt. Levi Preston, “We always had been free and we meant to be free always!”

Holly Abernathy is a communications and creative arts professional. She works in a variety of media and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. For more information, visit www.6qCreative.com.

3 thoughts on “Op-Ed: 1775 Came Before 1776

  • September 20, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    Great commentary and well worth the read.

  • October 4, 2022 at 1:50 pm

    Good information but I would suggest that no rational person believes our freedom will be restored without the use of arms at some level. Our founders had less justification for rebelling against Britian than we have now if we were to rebel against the federal government. Not saying it will happen or that it could be successful but to think we can reestablish We The People as the rightful rulers of our country through elections and demonstrations is to ignore history including our own.

  • October 11, 2022 at 11:17 am

    In light of FBI raids-with weapons drawn- on a Mt Juliet family, it is clear the Federal powers are held by corrupt hands. These are Gestapo tactics, surprising their chosen shirt color was not brown. This midterm election must be a resounding boot on the neck of tyranny


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