July 4, 2014

Editorial: Noble action at pivotal moment

Happy birthday, America. You’re 238 years old and as strong as ever.

On July 4, 1776, a legendary collection of geniuses gathered in Philadelphia to declare the American colonies an independent nation, no longer beholden, as a piece of property, to Great Britain.

The idea of colonization is loathed by civilized people in today’s world. The concept of one set of people seizing the assets of another and hoarding the proceeds for their own use is considered international thievery.

Were the patriots true geniuses? Or were they simply forced into heroic action by dire circumstances?

That question was once put to Peter Stone, head attorney for Ottaway Newspapers Inc. — former owners of the Press-Republican and other newspapers — and a widely acknowledged expert on the U.S. Constitution and constitutional law.

He thought for a moment and said, “I believe there is little doubt that this was a collection of the smartest people we have ever had.”

It was America’s luck — or fate or providence — that brought them all together at that pivotal time.

They were a disparate group with little in common except outrage at taxation without representation and little ability to influence their future.

Surely, the North and the South had little empathy with each other — an agricultural economy with a manufacturing economy; large colonies with small; and slave states with free.

The single factor that these leaders could all rally around was oppression; they all felt the weight of Great Britain’s overbearing mandates.

The internal differences would, of course, emerge in earnest during the Constitutional Convention seven years later and challenge these geniuses to reach compromises that testify not only to their amazing vision.

The product of their efforts has survived test after test to raise the U.S. Constitution as the beacon for all the world for all time.

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