Having just spent a week discussing the failures of conservative and libertarian wealthy political donors, it is appropriate to touch on the story of two of the first men to step up and fund liberty. These guys weren’t the only ones to put their fortunes on the line, of course, and the ringing end of the Declaration of Independence is familiar to many:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
If you are unfamiliar with how things turned out for the signers of the Declaration, it makes for great reading.
Some of them paid with their life. The contrast between then and now is stark. Today, few are being asked to risk their lives. How many twenty-first century Americans even bother to “undergo fatigue” as Thomas Paine said?:
Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.
How many people prefer to even steer clear of a discussion of politics lest it upset someone nearby? Again, let’s look at the contrast between the founding era and now. Here’s what George Washington said:
It should be the highest ambition of every American to extend his views beyond himself, and to bear in mind that his conduct will not only affect himself, his country, and his immediate posterity; but that its influence may be co-extensive with the world, and stamp political happiness or misery on ages yet unborn.
Highest ambition? We’ve come a long way, baby.
How many people today who support the vision of the Founding Fathers fear backlash from friends or family if they even get close to anything controversial? Let me ask you this: if they don’t hear the truth from you, who are they going to hear it from? The Founders knew doing the right thing had a price. John Adams said:
Men must be ready, they must pride themselves and be happy to sacrifice their private pleasures, passions and interests, nay, their private friendships and dearest connections, when they stand in competition with the rights of society.
“Their private friendships and dearest connections.” Why? Because of what Washington said above: the health of America impacts the world and your family relationships and friendships aren’t as important as the potential misery of the world that results when too few speak the truth.
Silence and inaction are the same as giving up. The consequences are all around us. Dr. Joseph Warren, who was appointed to be a Major General and gave his life at the battle of Bunker Hill, said this:
No longer could we reflect, with generous pride, on the heroic actions of our American forefathers … if we, but for a moment entertain the thought of giving up our liberty.
Many Founding Fathers lost their fortunes. Today, the subject of money and politics is a familiar one. People decry that we live in an era of multimillion-dollar campaigns. It would appear, however, that the flow of cash hasn’t exactly gotten the job done yet when it comes to preserving and protecting the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. In fact, just the opposite has occurred as the political left raises and spends a lot more effectively than the political right.
On the national level there are people like the libertarian Koch brothers and radical leftist George Soros. More big wallets are opening wider as the clash intensifies between those who want a return to limited, Constitutional government and those who would prefer to “fundamentally transform” the United States.
Examples of effective spending on the part of wealthy liberals are in the news constantly. One example: Due to many years of effective propaganda from the left and relative silence from the right, more Americans than ever are confused about the nature of homosexuality, the purpose of marriage, and the fact that the libertarians and liberals would like to repeal the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty. Forget all the talk of federalism and that marriage is a state issue. Low information voters and far too many “high” information voters don’t realize that the homosexual “marriage” issue is all about religious liberty.
The political left’s funding is infamous and their success is obvious. On the right, not so much. I’d argue that too few of the individuals with the means have contributed to the right causes. Expensive TV commercials, direct mail, “robo-calls,” and yet another fancy white paper detailing another left-wing policy failure have thus far failed to adequately inform the American public. The “drive-by” nature of election season campaigns leaves little lasting effect, and all the great commentary and research in the world makes little difference if it’s only seen by people who already agree.
More enlightened donors must awaken to the fact that what is needed is communication infrastructure — not just more hit-and-run messaging.
What do I mean by communication infrastructure? Permanent vehicles for the regular delivery of the information most citizens have been denied. For example, only after our state and local governments create an enormous mess does the Old Media bother to report on wrong policy and mismanagement. And even then rarely do voters learn the real solution to the problem.
The Founders pledged, “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” I’ll say this: plenty of individuals toil in the political trenches for little or no pay and most of them don’t have a fortune to fall back on.
There are many who are not in the trenches that could act as a modern day Haym Salomon or a Robert Morris. Both men played a crucial role in the funding of the Revolutionary War.
One website contains a terrific anecdote:
In August of 1781, our Southern forces had trapped Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis in the little Virginia coastal town of Yorktown. George Washington and the main army and the Count de Rochambeau with his French army decided to march from the Hudson Highlands to Yorktown and deliver the final blow. But Washington’s war chest was completely empty, as was that of Congress.
Washington determined that he needed at least $20,000 to finance the campaign. When Morris told him there were no funds and no credit available, Washington gave him a simple but eloquent order: “Send for Haym Salomon,” [who] again came through, and the $20,000 was raised. Washington conducted the Yorktown campaign, which proved to be the final battle of the Revolution, thanks to Haym Salomon.
“Send for Haym Salomon.” Even the Father of his country needed funding — and he knew where to turn. It’s a travesty that too few Americans know the name of Haym Salomon. Chicagoans can see a statue in his honor on Wacker Street near the river. That’s the picture above. Click here to learn more about it.
This is an invitation to those who can write checks to fund a much needed communications revolution from sea to shining sea. As I have been detailing all week, wealthy donors need to start exercising a little critical thinking. They need to stop supporting organizations that don’t have a vision to reach those yet unreached. We’ve already got the best informed choir in American history — and we all know that’s not good enough.
Making excuses for an unwillingness to pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor is surrender. And surrender, Thomas Jefferson said, will cause us infamy and guilt:
Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.
(This is an updated version of an article published July 2013)