What Calvin Coolidge Said On The Declaration of Independence’s 150th Anniversary
What Calvin Coolidge Said On The Declaration of Independence’s 150th Anniversary By The Federalist Staff for The Federalist
To honor the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, President Calvin Coolidge gave a stirring speech on the values of faith and freedom that rings like a bell today.
The following speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence was delivered on July 5, 1926, by Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. It has been abridged from the original.
We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. … Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years, the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.
Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly, enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well-seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.
It is not so much, then, for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.
Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.
… It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion, they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they, therefore, resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.
We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility.