Sunday, July 03, 2011

A little 4th of July patriotism

In honor of Independence Day, I took Elias to the nearby grave site of an American Revolutionary War veteran and American patriot, Matthew Lyon. I hope one day he appreciates this picture.
Lyon had a colorful history, a reminder that politics was once much less civil than today. Lyon once got into an actual fight on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

More importantly to me, Lyon was the first person arrested for violating the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 which forbid anyone to speak ill of the United States Government. Lyon was criticizing John Adams' decision to make war on France and accused him of "ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice." The Supreme Court consisted of Federalists who did not rule on the Constitutionality of the law, but supported its prosecution.

It's a reminder to me that "free speech" wasn't so free. The unpopularity of the laws helped lead the Federalists to be swept out of power in 1800 and future Supreme Courts to declare it one of the U.S.'s "sorriest chapters."

So, be thankful today that you can again criticize our government freely. And be reminded that our personal freedoms are vaporous, perhaps too often determined only by the whims of whoever happens to be sitting on the Supreme Court.

No comments: