Last month I was privileged to be the tour guide for nearly two dozen high school students as we stood gazing up to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. It was, of course, the first sight seen by millions of freedom seeking immigrants who saw America as their only hope and opportunity for a fresh new start. They had heard it was a land of unlimited potential where no dictators and power hungry bureaucrats would prevent them from enjoying the labors of their own hands.
Some of us had seen this symbol of freedom many times before, but this time the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on the pedestal seemed to take on additional meaning:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teaming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
The thought I had was that this inscription is not only a welcome idea to those coming to the American shores but it has become the renewed prayer of many Americans today as our beloved country slips more and more into the quagmire of socialism and moral decay. It is as though Lady Liberty could turn around on that pedestal and ask many Americans, "Are you not tired of what is happening.? Do you not feel you are freedom poor? Are you not again yearning to breathe free as you once did?" She could surely say to us, "I have been watching for over a hundred years now and this is not the America I remember. Come, let my lamp guide you again along the freedom trail as we return to the principles and beliefs that made your country great."
The Boston Freedom Trail
Earlier that week our group spent a whole day walking the Freedom Trail in Boston. The Trail is a self-guided tour as thousands of people follow a wide red stripe on the sidewalk through old Boston. One can experience nearly three hundred years of American History along this trail which has about 16 sites of major happenings.
For example, one can envision the British soldiers marching around the Commons in their bright red coats to show all who would see that the king's orders would be obeyed - by force if necessary. A little farther is the Old Granary Cemetery. Surrounded on three sides by high rise buildings , this little burial place contains the graves of some of America's most noted freedom fighters. The path first leads to the grave of John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was one of the most wanted men in New England by the King. In the rear of the cemetery is the grave of Paul Revere. What a brave soul! He was a member of the Committee on Correspondence and was responsible to keep the colonists informed as to potential danger. Right in the middle of the cemetery is a large monument marking the graves of Benjamin Franklin's parents. Then we come to the graves of Mary Goose. Most of us know her as Mother Goose, author of all those children's poems we loved so well. Just as we leave the cemetery is the grave of Samuel Adams. This great patriot was "up front" on almost every major development in the birth of the American nation. That is why he is called the father of the American Revolution.
No greater impressions are made on the Freedom Trail than in two special places - the churches of Old Boston - the Old South Church and the Old North Church. The Old South Meetinghouse is nestled among the financial high-rise buildings of downtown Boston. This was the centerplace of the colonists plea to God for His assistance. Two special events took place here which every American should know about. First, the church was the launching site of what history has called the Boston Tea Party. It was actually no party. It was a most serious challenge to the King. Dr. Skousen describes it this way:
"Then came King George III's scheme to trick Americans into paying a tax on tea. Americans were buying Dutch tea which was being smuggled in and sold cheaper. The King decided to undersell the Dutch tea by eliminating the English brokers, but leave the tax attached. He didn't think Americans would care so long as it was cheaper. That is not the way it worked out. All of the tea ships were forced to return to England or the shipments were unloaded and stored under quarantine (as in Charleston). The exception was Boston. The people refused to let the tea be unloaded and the Governor refused to let the ships return until they were unloaded. The Governor figured that since the Crown could confiscate any cargo not unloaded in 20 days, he would sell the tea at auction and collect the tax after all. Sam Adams saw through the scheme and pleaded with the Governor to send the ships back before there was a direct confrontation with the people. The Governor refused, and on the night of the 19th day, the "Sons of Liberty," boarded the boats and threw all of the tea into the harbor. This is known as the Boston Tea Party which occurred on December 16, 1773." (The Miracle of America Constitution Study Course, p. 48)
The other event took place 27 years earlier also in the Old South Church. In his book Isaiah Speaks to Modern Times, Dr. Skousen tells the story:
In October of 1746 France assembled the largest fleet ever to be sighted from American soil and headed for Boston to avenge the defeat at Louisburg (by the British). There was no hope of matching the fleet either in cannon fire or manpower, so the Governor assembled what men and resources he could and then called for a universal day of fasting and prayer. The late biographer Catherine Drinker Bowen related what happened.
"Everywhere men observed it, thronging to the churches. In Boston the Reverend Thomas Prince from the high pulpit of the Old South Meetinghouse, prayed before hundreds. The morning was clear and calm, people had walked to church through sunshine. `Deliver us from our enemy!' the minister implored. `Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the waters to the eastward! Raise Thy right hand. Scatter the ships of our tormentors and drive them hence. Sink their proud frigates beneath the power of Thy winds!'
"He had scarcely pronounced the words when the sun was gone and the morning darkened. All the church was in a shadow. A wind shrieked around the walls, sudden, violent, hammering at the windows with a giant hand. No man was in the steeple -- afterward the sexton swore it -- yet the great bell struck twice, a wild, uneven sound. Thomas Prince paused in his prayer. both arms raised. 'We hear Thy voice. O Lord!' he thundered triumphantly. 'We hear it! Thy breath is upon the waters to the eastward. even upon the deep. Thy bell tolls for the death of our enemies!' He bowed his head; when he looked up, tears streamed down his face. 'Thine be the glory, Lord. Amen and amen!'
"... All the Province heard of this prayer and this answering tempest. Governor Shirley sent a sloop, the Rising Son, northward for news ... she brought news so good it was miraculous -- if one could believe it ... the whole fleet was nearly lost. the men very sick with scurvy, or some pestilential fever. Their great admiral, the Duc d'Anville, was dead.
"A week later the news was confirmed by other vessels entering Boston from the northeastward. D'Anville was indeed dead; it was said he had poisoned himself in grief and despair when he saw his men dying round him. Two thousand were already buried, four thousand were sick, and not above a thousand of the land forces remained on their fleet. Vice-Admiral d'Estournelle had run himself through the heart with his sword. The few remaining ships, half-manned, were limping off to the southwestward, headed it was thought for the West Indies.
"Pestilence, storm and sudden death -- how directly and with what extraordinary vigor the Lord had answered New England prayers!
"The country fell on its knees.... A paper with d'Anville's orders had been found, instructing him to take Cape Breton Island, then proceed to Boston - 'lay that Town in Ashes and destroy all he could upon the Coast of North America; then proceed to the West Indies and distress the Islands.'"
Had the French Armada burned Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, the history of early America might have been changed completely.
It was an especially sensitive moment as that story was retold to these young high school students last month as we met in Boston's Old South Church. Even the hostess in the Church had moistened eyes as she herd that story for the first time.
The Old North Church played a significant part in the American fight for independence. It was here that Paul Revere had an agreement with the church sexton to place a signal in the tower to indicate whether the British soldiers were taking the long way around by land or if they would shorten the route and cross the bay by boat. The people of Charlestown had to be warned. It was the most expedient warning device. As Longfellow said in his now famous description of Revere's journey, "One if by land, and two if by sea." After telling this exciting story, it's always interesting to ask the group the question, "Now how many lanterns were in the steeple that night?"
Many Americans have heard of the Freedom Trail in Boston. Most may never have the opportunity to walk this Freedom Trail. But there is a Freedom Trail which every American can walk. Ironically, it is one most have never heard about. It is the Freedom Trail blazed by America's Founders. It is the essence of the work of Thomas Jefferson and others who set out to develop a pattern for free governments. It is what Lady Liberty symbolically holds out to the all the world's population who are tired of tyranny.
This is the mission of the National Center for Constitutional Studies. It is a message of hope and excitement. It is a message which, when one hears it for the first time, makes him exclaim, "I've never heard this before. It is all true and right!" Those of us who have taught it over the years never tire of seeing faces come alive with hope, realizing that politics doesn't have to be just negative, divisive, power struggles, but can actually be energizing to the soul. When is gets in your blood, you are never the same.
Concerned Americans Are Awakening
It is heartening to sense a gradual awakening of good Americans who are asking now in greater numbers, "How can I get involved?" They have been counseled to do so and more are now seeing the desperate need for their help. Our thanks goes to many of you who have seen the need in your areas and have taken the steps to have a Constitution seminar for you friends and neighbors. In New Hampshire, a New Hampshire Center for Constitutional Studies has been established, drawing many from the New England area to our seminars. In Montana, state legislators are actively promoting NCCS's materials and seminars. In Michigan, a church group is sponsoring our discussions as one of several in which its members can take part during its Education Days. We have been invited to participate in teaching in a number of other states by supporters who have felt the gentle tugging of the Founders' spirit.
Announcing a Major NCCS Event in July
In response to an increasing demand for our seminars and to train others to be able to teach this message in their own locales, NCCS is launching a major activity in July which we hope will be a permanent part of our summer program. We have joined with George Wythe College and with Heritage Academy, an Arizona charter high school, to sponsor a week-long seminar on the Constitution to be held on the beautiful campus of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. Instructors will be Dr. W. Cleon Skousen, Dr. Oliver DeMille, and myself. The Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, Jeff Groscost, who is a long-time supporter of NCCS has been invited to take part along with some others. A feature workshop will be Dr. Skousen discussing with us The Next Fifty Years and the Majesty of God's Law. We hope to have those attend who would like to have an intense learning experience as well as those who would like to certify to teach NCCS seminars in their areas. Please refer to the enclosed flyer for more details. We must know of your interest as soon as possible.
Thank you all for your financial support as we help more Americans experience the thrill of walking with the Founders on their own Freedom Trail.
Earl Taylor, Jr.