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A Very American Birthday

Posted By Julia Shaw On July 4, 2010 @ 10:00 am In First Principles | Comments Disabled

Here is a quick Independence Day quiz:

Who is the only president to share a birthday with America?

Which president gave one of the best defenses of The Declaration of Independence and America’s First Principles?

Who said “Some principles are so constant and so obvious that we do not need to change them, but we need rather to observe them.”

Did your answer William Henry Harrison?

No?

Good, because the correct answer these questions is Calvin Coolidge [1].

In a time when progressivism asserted that the “world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard [the Founders'] conclusions for something more modern,” Calvin Coolidge ardently defended the Principles of the American Founding.

Our 30th President is not usually thought of as a defender of America’s principles. (Even though as President, he celebrated his birthday with a tribute to the Declaration of Independence [2] and America’s First Principles [3].

He is usually known for his quote: “the business of America is business.” This is often misunderstood. Coolidge did not mean that Americans consider wealth to be the highest accomplishment. Rather, he argued that “the accumulation of wealth can not be justified as the chief end of existence…. And there never was a time when wealth was so generally regarded as a means, or so little regarded as an end, as today.”

Americans were concerned with “producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world,” but their highest aim was not material success. In order to prioritize the spiritual things over material goods, Coolidge encouraged Americans to “cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which [our Founders] showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.” Americans could not take the principles of the Declaration for granted and still maintain material success.

Coolidge understood that there is a finality to the Declaration of Independence: “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/07/04/a-very-american-birthday/

URLs in this post:

[1] Calvin Coolidge: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2009/07/This-Fourth-of-July-Keep-Cool-with-Coolidge

[2] tribute to the Declaration of Independence: http://www.calvin-coolidge.org/html/at_the_convention_of_the_natio.html

[3] America’s First Principles: http://blog.heritage.org http://www.calvin-coolidge.org/html/the_inspiration_of_the_declara.html

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