Today marks the birth date of a most remarkable nation, the United States of America.
The founding of this most remarkable of nations was advocated, promoted, and defended by Masons, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and John Marshall (who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), among others.
At our nation's founding, it created a written constitution, the opening sentence of which did not begin with the name of a king, but the astonishing declaration that the nation's government sprang from "We the People". It is a nation where the sovereign power rests in each and every citizen, not a royal sovereign.
Its governors were its inhabitants (not citizens), not hereditary lords and and kings. The rights of every inhabitant were formally recognized by (not created by) law, the chief rights being that of free speech, by which every man and woman no matter their station could openly declare their opposition to a law or what they believed to be the corrupt administration of their government without fear of detention, arrest, prosecution, imprisonment, or death; the second being the right of free exercise of religion, by which the people were guaranteed not only the right to worship according to their own conscience, but also to be free from the compulsory support of a religion that was not their own; and the third being a free press, by which the people could investigate their own government and governors, expose misconduct and ineptitude, advocate for change, and inform themselves on any matter without fear of government persecution.
At its founding, the nation took its first step toward the abolition of slavery by limiting how slaves could be counted when apportioning representatives to the federal government, though only 3% of all slaves taken from Africa ever came to its shores. And later, when the slave-holding states rebelled rather than give up their slaves, the nation went to civil war at the greatest cost of life and property it had experienced to that time and, as it turned out, has experienced since.
The nation was the first nation to grant citizenship to anyone born within its territory. No other nation had ever done so, and since that time only one other nation has done so, Canada, following our example.
Second only to liberty in law, perhaps this nation's greatest gift to mankind has been demonstrating that a free market economy provides the greatest social mobility to all classes, spurs innovation, and creates wealth on a scale no other system can match. In addition to propelling the nation to the greatest extent of wealth and power, a free market economy has been single-handedly responsible for lifting 1.1 billion people out of poverty between 1990 and 2013.
And, as is the case with every nation, there have been misdeeds: the treatment of native Americans, the delay to purge slavery from its land, the imposition of Jim Crow laws and the denial of civil rights for 90 years after the Civil War, the tardy extension of the right to vote for women, corruption in politics and business. But, unlike other nations, these pernicious sins were exposed by the nation's own inhabitants, inveighed against in the free press, corrected, and--perhaps most amazingly--made a prominent part of the history taught to children in educational institutions, whereas other nations even to this very day often suppress memorialization and publication of the darker aspects of their history.
On this day, there is much to reflect upon, much to be thankful for, and much yet to be done for the improvement of the nation and the advancement of liberty and dignity among all men everywhere. But, it is still a day to celebrate with thankfulness.