July 4th was the day America declared that all men are created equal. Juneteenth was the day Americans proved they meant it.
The United States is the greatest country in the world not because of our power or our prosperity, but because of our founding ideals. The ideals of liberty and equality rooted in the natural law were radical then and they are radical now, separating the United States from all other nations.
There was, however, a glaring contradiction to these ideals from the very beginning of the republic: slavery. It was obvious that America’s Original Sin was antithetical to the American Creed. Thomas Jefferson even included a clause in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence condemning King George for the slave trade, and later warned that God’s justice would visit the United States for our sin.
The Constitution was, as President Lincoln put it, the silver frame around the apple of gold that was the Declaration. But the silver was not without its blemishes, for beside the clauses which proclaimed the eternal truths of liberty were clauses protecting what is perhaps the vilest violation of liberty known to man.
Condoning slavery was a morally repulsive act, but it was necessary. The South was unwilling to let go of its peculiar institution, and the republic could not survive without the support of those states.
But the various compromises were always fragile, and as the young republic grew in size and strength, the issue of slavery continued to rear its ugly head. Lincoln merely stated the obvious when he said that a house divided cannot stand and the republic would eventually be comprised entirely of free or slave states.
When the Civil War began, Americans were compelled to choose between two visions of what America was. The Confederacy embraced the philosophy of men like John Calhoun who argued that the idea that all men were created equal was an absurdity that should not have been included in the Declaration. The Confederacy held that the founding ideals were lies. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said at the beginning of the war, “[The United States] rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error … Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man.”
The Union embraced the founding ideals. Frederick Douglass called the Constitution “a glorious liberty document.” Lincoln said that the American republic was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
The war was terrible with over 600,000 Americans dying thereby fulfilling Jefferson’s prophecy. Yet rarely has there been a time in human history in which the fight between good and evil was so perfectly demonstrated. While the traitors fought ferociously for the right to make those made in the image of God their property, patriots marched to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, singing, “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”
On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation took effect and at once all slaves in the rebellious states were forever free on paper, but for many, that wasn’t a reality even after the Confederacy surrendered in April of 1865. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger informed slaves in Galveston, Texas that they were free, and since the late 1800s black Americans have celebrated that day which has come to be known as Juneteenth. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a holiday, and this month Juneteenth was made a federal holiday.
Juneteenth represents a triumph of our revolutionary ideals. It doesn’t replace or diminish 1776, it complements it. It is the embodiment of 1776. It represents our ideology of equality and liberty defeating an ideology of tyranny and oppression. It proved that Americans believed in the principles of the Declaration, and they’d die to see them upheld. It proved that July 4th is a day worth celebrating.
Today, the spirit of 1776 is once more under attack. We are told that the founding ideals were a lie meant to cover up systems of oppression, just as Calhoun and Stephens claimed all those years ago. We are told America embraces 1619, not 1776.
Juneteenth stands as an eternal repudiation of such claims. It proves that the founding ideals were not lies, but self-evident truths. It proves that the American Creed is not a creed of oppression, but of liberty; that America is truly the land of the free. It is a day that should make every American proud to be an American, and is certainly deserving of becoming a holiday. Americans should celebrate it for as long as the republic endures.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.