The purpose of these articles is to serve as a dedication to the memory of my ancestors who traveled to these distant shores so many years ago. Like many immigrants who have come to America before and after, my relatives, share with others similar stories and reasons for their immigrating to our country.
Although there was no Statue of Liberty in 1696, when my relatives braved the seas to travel to Virginia, they came for liberty and freedom from oppression. Henry and Peter Byrom came for opportunity, burdened with their indentured servitude, they came anyway, far from their home of birth.
The words on the plaque at the Statue of Liberty, still beckon newcomers and they speak to a universal theme of our history. As Emma Lazarus so beautifully said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I left my lamp beside the golden door!”
My relatives came to America to breathe free from religious persecution and to establish a new home on these shores. England was not a friendly place for those who had different religious beliefs. If you were a Baptist or a Quaker, distant shores beckoned, as a place where you could practice your faith without the King or Queen’s interference. My relatives came here poor but rich with hope. They came here homeless, huddled among others, aboard a ship seeking a new life on a foreign shore.
While my relatives were shackled by the chains of indentured servitude, others were shackled by slavery, the Institution of Slavery.
When Thomas Jefferson declared our Independence from England, he spoke eloquently, saying that all men are created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, among those being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While he stated those words, not all men or women experienced equality. We, as a nation, have been a work in progress. We have evolved, over time, into a more representative democracy and into a more perfect union.
Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg address spoke in a similar fashion as Jefferson had in the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, said, ” Our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Lincoln sought to preserve the union, but in his Gettysburg Address, he admitted that the nation had unfinished work to be done.
Lincoln concluded his address at Gettysburg with the following quote:” That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
When Lincoln dedicated the ground to those who had fought at Gettysburg, he realized that their would be a time when the war would be over and that we should re-dedicate ourselves to a rebirth of freedom.
My great-grandfather fought on the wrong side at Gettysburg. He returned home near the war’s end. When the war was over he became a part of the nation that he once fought against. He, like others, had fought the good fight for their cause but he became an American once again, and he accepted the consequences of the defeat. He never owned a slave. His state, North Carolina, became part of the United States.
Daniel Webster looked at government as being “made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.
In 21st Century America, the danger is that our government is becoming more and more a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.
Today, like other times in our history we face the survival of our representative democracy. A new form of aristocracy seeks to rob, we the people, of our liberty and foist upon us a new form of slavery.
There is a new black cloud hovering over the land, where some among us, work towards ending government as we know it. Through selfishness and greed, and under the guise of calling for more liberty, the reality is that they want to create a country where there would be a permanent division between the very few wealthy and the rest of us.
They call themselves conservatives, but they are only conservatives in name only. They do not want to conserve equality of opportunity but rather they seek to place high on their altar, the importance of property. To their view, property is more important than equality. They work to ensure that only a few have true liberty.
The gap between the top 1 and 1/2 percent of Americans and the middle class increases. We are at a critical juncture in our history. Extremism is at its zenith. Our government has become increasingly dysfunctional.
But we the people have within our power the ability to re-dedicate ourselves to a rebirth of freedom.
President Roosevelt gave us a guide post for the future when he spoke of a new bill of rights. Our citizens need to fight for those rights that Roosevelt spoke of.
I share the feelings that Daniel Webster once stated. ” Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”
Let us all share in the fight for equality for all, so that we may once and for all have an equal opportunity for a good job, good health and that no American will go to bed hungry.