This piece by Larry Getlen, at the NY Post is a must-read for the day:

Washington’s plan was to conquer the Hessians on Dec. 26 by sending troops across the Delaware in three sections — under cover of darkness — the night before.

Colonels John Cadwalader and Daniel Hitchcock would lead 1,800 men to block potential Hessian reinforcements from arriving from Burlington, N.J. General James Ewing would bring about 800 men to seal off the escape route over the bridge at Assunpink Creek. Washington would lead the main attack force of 2,400 men directly into the city.

Washington believed that the element of surprise was crucial, which meant leaving by sundown on Christmas night, arriving on the Trenton side of the river by midnight to begin marching the nine miles inland, and invading before daybreak.

The plan came with tremendous risk.

“In a worst-case scenario, [Washington] would not catch the Hessians by surprise, they would counterattack, and they would pinion his army against the river,” says John Ferling, author of “Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence.”

“He really was risking everything. When he said ‘victory or death,’ he meant that not only for himself, but for that whole army.” And for all hope of American independence.

It seems quite wrong to watch a country forged by such selfless greatness as this, tumble so swiftly into an abysmal mediocrity born of an “idiotic cerebral meritocracy,” and a tawdry old electoral bait-and-switch.

It is even worse to contemplate that the tumble was assisted through the willful surrender of a so-called “free press” (to an unknown entity it preferred to dress-up, rather than examine) and by a citizenry so complacent it was content to be lied to, because it is easier to absorb a soundbite than to read a primary-source document.

The Declaration of Independece is getting a hardy workout this 4th of July. Even Drudge is linking to it, via the LA Times Blog.

Given the deplorable lack of civic education offered by our public schools, many Americans may well be reading the document for the first time, with more than a few of them viewing the grievances of the Colonists against England with raised eyebrows, and weighing them–particularly those concerns about taxation, bureaucracy, illegal immigration, law enforcement–against our present circumstances.

It is unimaginable that George Washington, or any of the Founders, would be amenable to a Department of Justice that saw no need to prosecute a clear case of voter intimidation. That was not what Washington was willing to die for; quite the opposite.

The founders of the nation were farmers, lawyers, inventors, journalists, preachers and small business men. Their notion of liberty was to create a government that would protect the shores, promote free trade and stay out of people’s lives for the most part, because the government did not belong there. These founders were not “against” government; their revolution was about keeping government pruned down in size, so that it did not overwhelm. Committed to the notions of private enterprise and private property, these men nevertheless founded schools and hospitals and established charities. They did so because, whether Christian or Deists, they felt sufficiently aware of their eventual accountability to something greater than themselves; they simply did not accept that that “something” should be an all-encroaching government that mirrored the one from which they had wrested their freedoms. America’s greatness was founded in an idea of humanity unimpeded by the applications of a thousand little, biting laws, enforced by ten thousand snippy bureaucrats.

Ben Franklin had a trick of hiding a bit of oil in the head of his walking stick, so that he could amuse a crowd by waving the stick over a pond, thereby releasing the oil, which would still the waters. A bit of a naturalist, it is doubtful that he would be anything but horrified to see the oil disaster overtaking our federally-protected waters, and to read that clean-up efforts have been slowed down and mismanaged by the very government designed to protect them:

Various skimmers and tankers (some of them very large) are available that could eliminate most of the oil from seawater, discharging the mostly clean water while storing the oil onboard. While this would clean vast amounts of water efficiently, the EPA is unwilling to grant a temporary waiver of its regulations.

As Franklin was also a journalist wholly committed to the notion of a free press, he would be equally horrified to discover that the American government he helped to design and sustain in its infancy is actively working to limit coverage the disaster.

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 the 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.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

It was Ben Franklin who scratched out Thomas Jefferson’s “sacred and undeniable” in the second paragraph and changed it to read “self-evident.” And one reads those words one thinks, “but, of course…”

Our founders were a varied, gifted, squabbling bunch of heroic men, and the exclusion of any one of them might have resulted in the tumbling of the whole structure they sought to build.

It feels like America is tumbling, now; nothing has made more Americans feel insecure than watching our current leadership’s single-minded pursuit of dubious programs, passed into law over the objections of the very public the congress is meant to represent.

The country was founded on a bold idea, and by men (and women–let’s not forget Abigail Adams–) who were exceedingly up-front about what they were doing, and what they sought. Her tumbling has been nothing so striking; it has crept into power on banal rhetoric and little cat feet.

Elizabeth Scalia is guest-blogging for the week; this has been cross-posted at First Things, where she blogs as The Anchoress