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Calvin Coolidge on the Declaration of Independence

Happy Birthday to our 30th President Calvin Coolidge, the only president born on July 4-Independence Day. In 1926 he spoke about the importance of the Declaration of Independence.

Coolidge entered office upon the sudden death of Warren Harding and helped restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor’s administration. He left office with considerable popularity. Although Coolidge was known to be a skilled and effective public speaker, in private he was a man of few words and was commonly referred to as “Silent Cal.”

On July 4, 1926, the 150th anniversary of the nation, Coolidge delivered an address in Philadelphia affirming the enduring veracity of human equality, inalienable rights, and the consent of the governed-“those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound.”

“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.

The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its Members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.”

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.”

-Calvin Coolidge

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