Dr. William B. Allen, a member of the Board of Directors of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge,
wrote this article for the Claremont Review in July 2014. Dr. Allen is currently a senior scholar in residence
at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
By William B. Allen
Each renewed celebration of American Independence augments the debt we owe to them who first proclaimed the essential truth that all men are created equal. We are fortunate still to be able to declare with the Founding Father, Fisher Ames, that the “abstract truths” struck off in grand and glorious congresses “still appear to us at home to be truths” simply. Must we not pause, though, to ponder what might be due from us — our installment payment — on the towering debt of inherited liberty which descends from the source of that truth? …
We pay, first, by remembering. And this payment is rendered to posterity, for a people who will remember the architects of liberty and the morality of freedom will not fail to bequeath a legacy of virtue to their offspring.
We pay again in the coin of fame, duly rendered to those whose services merit and whose souls surely reap the harvest of that legitimate fruit of honest ambition. Should we ever fall in arrears on that debt, we may be certain that, while our creditors are merely stinted of richly deserved compensation, we the debtors would be in our turn forever barred from laying claim to it and, what is worse, impoverished in the means of acquiring it. The commerce of fame embellishes our lives as much as the lives of them whom we praise.
But we repay this great debt of ours, above all, when we become ourselves such men as they who left us this legacy.
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