The Cost of Freedom


I have to admit, it’s been a source of wonder to me the past few years watching us give up the rights guaranteed us by the constitution. I’ve tried to understand how we as Americans have allowed our duly elected representatives to strip us of rights piece by piece. While only hypothesizing, I can only think of one reason: We’ve forgotten the cost we paid for the freedoms we enjoy.

We’ve forgotten the costs, because history isn’t studied as it used to be. Because we don’t study it, we miss the many important lessons learned. We don’t research and study how we got where we are today. Instead, we let talking heads on television, self-proclaimed experts on YouTube, or 140 character “insights” into our world rewrite history. Sadly, most Americans believe our freedom began on July 4th, 1776. It actually didn’t. We formally let the British know we were going to be independent on July 2nd, 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. Congress approved the final text of the declaration on July 4th. It wasn’t actually signed until August 2nd, 1776.


America wasn’t “freed” in 1776, and neither did the revolutionary war actually begin on that date. Television and some scholars would have us believe that on July 4th, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, no doubt shirtless, flintlock in hand, and riding a grizzly bear, stormed Britain, laid down the declaration, had the bear eat several uniform rows of redcoated British soldiers, and called it a day, now being free. There was actually a bit more leading up to our freedom.

We have to go back to 1754, the time of the French and Indian wars, where colonists were used in a proxy war between Britain and France. There were many minor annoyances suffered by the colonists at the hands of the British prior to this, and over the course of time the King and his armies imposed more and more hardship on the colonies. Various taxes, the quartering of soldiers in homes, and acts of violence ground on our forefathers until they decided action was necessary. A polarizing act committed by British troops was the Boston Massacre in March of 1770. Colonists, armed with snowballs (yes, snowballs – did I mention they were gutsy if not tactically proficient?), sticks, and stones attacked a British squad. The Brits responded with gunfire, killing three and wounding several more.

What many consider the first overt act of the Revolutionary War, indeed, what is referred to as “the shot heard ’round the world” was directly related to firearm seizure. Despots have long known that an unarmed populace is the easiest to control. April 19th, 1775 saw Britain’s General Gage moving troops on a mission in  Massachusetts to capture Sam Adams (before he was into craft beer) and John Hancock in Lexington, then march to Concord and secure the colonial’s powder works and armory there.

Shedding colonial blood on America’s soil was a tipping point for the colonists. Twenty years of injustices, each seemingly insignificant burden added over the course of time and silently borne, had added up to a load the colonists were no longer willing to tolerate. The declaration was drafted and delivered. Very specific reasons for seeking independence were in the declaration, including:

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

Open warfare between Britain and the colonists lasted until November, 1783. Our bid for independence encompassed twenty nine years, with eight years of that being open conflict.

To most of the population of our country, war is an abstract concept. To a very small percentage, it is a very real thing. This 1% has seen firsthand the devastation and hardship war inflicts on a populace. The decision by the colonists to go to war with Britain wasn’t something undertaken lightly. To oppose a numerically superior force of trained, experienced warfighters with an established logistical chain is ill advised. Losses are inevitable. Yet weighing the costs, it was decided that freedom or death was better than oppression. The New Hampshire state motto “Live Free or Die” sums this spirit up. This was adopted by New Hampshire from a toast made by the state’s most famous Revolutionary War soldier General John Stark, who toasted “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”


The colonists knew going in they were in for the fight of their lives. But they understood the price to secure freedom from oppression for their children and their nation was worth the cost. Injury, death, hardship, the destruction of buildings and land, and fear are all components of waging war. All these things were endured to secure our freedoms.

Why then, when freedom comes at such a cost, do we allow our rights to be chipped away for one excuse or another? I believe it’s like the difference between giving a teenager a car, and having him or her work for it. If they’re not personally invested in it, it doesn’t hold as much value. When 1% of the nation has had to fight for freedom, how can we expect the remaining 99% to appreciate it? How can we explain to them the true cost?

Or maybe it’s because the 99% have never known anything but freedom that makes it so cheap to them. Having never been occupied by a foreign force that stripped them of their rights, does this make it easier for them to blithely hand them over? I believe that if you talk to Europeans of a certain generation, they would be quick to point out that freedom is hard won, and they would not be wont to hand them over so easily.

Our rights are very valuable, hard won commodities. Relinquishing any one, or even a part of any one, places the rest in jeopardy. And once one is given away, it’s much harder to get back.



The Tactical Pirate

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President and lead instructor. Follow me on Twitter, and check out our blog.

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