• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: Remembering the Providential Gift of America

    Christmas, 1776.

    Summer had begun with strong declarations of noble ideals, but by winter the cause of liberty seemed to be at low ebb. Having suffered defeat after defeat, many had all but given up hope. It looked like freedom would succumb yet again, as it had throughout history, to the forces of authoritarianism and tyranny.

    Then, on Christmas Day, 1776, a small band of colonial forces under the command of Gen. George Washington, having retreated all the way from New York, again crossed the Delaware River and brought battle at Trenton, New Jersey. Washington not only won the battle but regained the initiative and turned the war in the patriots’ favor. One week later, Washington defeated the British at Princeton and forced the enemy to withdraw, preventing its advance on Philadelphia, seat of the Continental Congress.

    When it announced itself to the world in 1776, the United States of America was little more than an alliance of 13 small colonies on a barren continent, thousands of miles from their ancestral homeland, surrounded by hostile powers.

    Now, well over two centuries after winning independence from the British Empire, America is the freest, wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. Along the way it established sovereign nationhood, settled a continent and more and brought unprecedented prosperity to its citizens. It survived a devastating Civil War that threatened its very life, abolished slavery and raised up the emancipated to be citizens equal to their one-time masters. It triumphed in two world wars fought on foreign soil and a decades-long struggle against worldwide communism that, 20 years ago, led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union.

    What accounts for this monumental success? The founding of the United States was indeed revolutionary. But not in the sense of replacing one set of rulers with another, or overthrowing the institutions of society. John Adams queried:

    What do we mean by the American Revolution? The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

    Our revolution was about the ideas upon which a new nation was to be established. Permanent truths “applicable to all men and all times,” as Abraham Lincoln later said, proclaimed that principle rather than will would be the ultimate ground of government.

    What is truly revolutionary about America is that, for the first time in history, these universal ideas became the foundation of a system of government and its political culture. Because of these principles, rather than despite them, the American Revolution culminated not in tyranny but a constitutional government that has long endured.

    To this day, 233 years after Washington and his men crossed the Delaware, these principles–proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and promulgated by the Constitution–still define us as a nation and inspire us as a people. These principles are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other. They are the highest achievements of our tradition, a beacon to those who strive for freedom but also a warning to tyrants and despots everywhere. Because of these principles, not despite them, America achieved greatness.

    The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson later recorded, was “neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, [but] was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”

    As Americans, our aim must be a clear expression and forthright defense of the nation’s principles in the public square so that they become, once again, an expression of the American mind. Despite constant scorn by academic elites, political leaders and the popular media, most Americans still believe in the uniqueness of this country and respect the Founders’ noble ideas. They may fail a test of particulars – quick: when did Washington cross the Delaware? – but they overwhelmingly want to know about this nation and its meaning.

    We must give voice to all those who have not given up on their country’s experiment in self-government, have not concluded the cause of liberty and limited constitutional government is lost and have not accepted America’s decline as inevitable.

    The goal must be to restore the liberating principles of the American Founding as the defining public philosophy of our nation. As it was for most of American history, so it can be again.

    The joy of this wonderful season is about new beginnings and the eternal promise of redemption. We Americans have the immeasurable benefit, the providential gift, of having inherited a great country.

    We must never forget its confidence, optimism and promise, its endless capacity for renewal, are contained in our dedication to the enduring principles of liberty with which all men are endowed by their Creator.

    May you and yours have a merry and blessed Christmas.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Morning Bell: Remembering the Providential Gift of America

    1. R. George Dunn says:


    2. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Merry Christmas, everybody.

    3. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      Those are noble words indeed. But the one common thread running through those "revolutions" and "wars", that in fact built this country, is the those battles were won by armed patriots. Not money, votes, or words. If we are to save this country we must again do what our forefathers did. This batch of Maxist, Communist, and Democrats that now infest Washington cannot be stopped with words, tea parties, or the hope of voting them out of office. They refuse to listen to the overwhelming majorty of this country and cannot be stopped any other way.

    4. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      This great country was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and principles. That is history. That is indisputable.

      It was a miracle that a rag-tag bunch of colonists could hold out against the stongest army and navy in the world, along with ruthless Hessian Mercenaries. A second miracle was bestowed in 1812, again, against overwhelming strengths and odds.

      Thank God this great Nation was allowed to survive and develop. May He watch over us in these dark global hours.

      Merry Christmas

    5. Dejuana Simon says:

      Merry Christmas everyone and I thank all the family who's loved one gave their lives for me.


      GOD bless America!

    6. Pat Kleinmaier Pfaf says:

      The least we can do is stand up for what those people did that cold December day. Are we so weak that we can allow the liberals to destroy what they so bravely fought for? Come on Patriots stand united.

    7. Terry - New Hope, PA says:

      Thank you for talking about this today. I live just 8 miles up river from this wonderful site. Aside from the tourist areas, which are historic and informative, if you know where to go, there are also graves of soldiers who died here. It's a place I have gone to many times while walking my dogs. It's a place alive with pride & wonder in the air, the smell of the Delaware River where Washington and his troops crossed and altered the direction of this country. I am convinced we the people are again at the banks of the Delaware, faced with tyranny and a maniacal government that continues to spit in the face of our Founding Fathers, our Constitution, and us.

    8. Jason, New York says:

      Merry Christmas!

      It's great to read about the importance of Christmas in our countries history. It's too bad every school child isn't required to read this before they start their Christmas breaks.

    9. Ercille Christmas, C says:

      I concur with the sentiments of both the article and the subsequent comments. America became the "freest, wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth," by the grace and mercy of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. May this same God give us the fortitude and wisdom to reclaim our revolutionary spirit and prevent the further dismantling of the country founded by real men, the Founding Fathers!

    10. Pingback: Remembering the Providential Gift of America | NewsReal Blog

    11. Delphine,charlestown says:

      Thanks for this post I had not seen nor read this befor and I am so happy for this post.I see the Bunker Hill Monument each and every day and I do thank God for the men and women that gave their lives for me and my children and grandchildren..and God do Bless us every day..

    12. John B. San Diego says:

      Captain Sullenberger…Yes that is what America needs. Seems to me we are obviously headed for crash. Chesley is our man…not Obama…we require a real American Hero…and Barack knows non! "To deadfish get the blank out of the way America will have her day"Let the likes of real heroes save our day Emanuel knows NONE!

      Americans my favorite pancake house shut down and my kids search for jobs what do us?

      Our search is for a man or woman who gets it; you so-called representatives in Washington DC don't get it!

      Your day in the cold water will come Washington Scandal; I doubt you will enjoy a "SULLY"

    13. Charles Smith Memphi says:

      This country was born through revoloution 200 years ago. The only way it will be reborn to the America most of us want is through another revoloution now. I don't mean an armed revoloution, I mean a revoloution at the ballot box !! We must start with term limits, our congress men & women are elected to 1st enact legislation that is best for our country, not see how much money they can take from our pockets to fund their special interests in their own states. 2nd they are not elected to make a career out of sitting in the Senate or the house enjoying special taxpayer funded perks that make them want to stay there for life. It does not take a lifelong politition to understand the current issues that face our country. Anyone we elect with common sense can figure out what is right for the majority of the people in this country ,and what is the right way to handle foreign policy. Two terms should be the maximum for any office.

      The responsibility to enact these changes lies with YOU & ME, no one else. We elected a republican majority a few years back and they didn't do what they promised and what we expected them to do. The backlash was this current Democratic congress and they are not doing what we expect them to do. We have got to make it possible for a regular person to get elected in our system before we can ever get some one with real principals in the system. Meantime we cannot let life time entitled polititions continue to send America down the path we are headed.

    14. charles fisenne bal says:

      American Philosophy???? It has dragged around and not for the better. My thought is that the terms – Liberty and freedom is both a cry and a hope for a government that is not oppressive. Our culture has adopted these words to the belief that society and the individual can do anything they want or wish without consequence and if the law gets in the way, ignore it or change the law.

      Our founders held to Christian beliefs, honor God and honor thy neighbor as yourself. I could give an extended litany of present day failures within our culture to uphold these concepts and the only remedy would be to select the world renown Jewish Rabbi, Jesus, as the American philosopher. No religious commitment needed but it is a call to conscience for a structured society to enhance and ennoble our laws and instill idealism and virtue in our citizens.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.