• 36°

Dear Ancestor: Here’s your America today

Writer

James Burns is a retired University of Florida professor.

This is a letter to a soldier who fought in the American Revolution, updating him on how America has evolved since gaining our freedom.  He would be both pleased and concerned. 

Dear Sgt. Hosbrook, though you are my ancestor, I thought it only fitting and proper to address you by your rank and title in that great war for independence that we are celebrating some 242 years later. As an officer in the First New Jersey Regiment of General Washington’s Continental Line, you were well aware of the blood and treasure being sacrificed to break free from a pompous and tyrannical British king.

Given that your unit survived a brutally cold winter at Valley Forge, it is both sad and ironic that you later froze to death bringing salt back from the fort for your family in the frontier wilderness. Fighting fatigue and a fierce wind, your knees finally buckled beneath you as you collapsed and were soon blanketed by blizzard snow.

You would not recognize that thickly-forested section of the Northwest Territory even a few years later as hardy pioneers, including you descendants, began carving farms, commerce, and communities out of the wilderness. One of your offspring wrote that “the hum of industry was heard, and the forests for miles around resounded with the woodman’s stroke; the settlement increased.”

With God’s guidance and providence, our thirteen colonies of your day have grown to a global power, a nation of fifty states and, by any measure, immense wealth. Yet to be truthful, I fear that we may be losing some of the core qualities that have defined who we are as a people and nation.

Your grandson, a state engineer and legislator, wrote to his father on his 80th birthday as follows: “Respected Father, in looking over the record of your children and grandchildren, I believe there is not a drunkard, swearer, vagabond, or beggar among them, and I now pledge that none of my children ever shall be.”

Our Founding Fathers knew that the republic which they designed — that invested so much power in the people and our democratic institutions —required restraints on man’s greed and lust for power. Thus they designed a system of checks and balances, but one which required an informed and moral citizenry to sustain it. While we still have separation of church and state, government and commerce must be in the hands of people infused with an honesty and integrity that most naturally and easily flows from a religious upbringing and respect for a Creator.

You would be pleased by what one of our ancestral cousins, a missionary in remote India back in 1898, wrote of the American people of his era: “Righteousness has exalted this nation. The priceless blessings she reaps were sown for her at the stake, in the dungeon, and through the toil and sacrifices of generations of pure-souled men and women.”

Sgt. Hosbrook, our ancestral cousin spoke of an American people who had a deep gratitude for the country they had inherited. But you cannot be grateful for something of which you have little knowledge. Imagine living in a mansion that you know not how or by whom it was built and whose maintenance you have invested in a work crew of devious and dishonest people.

Another century further on in our history, I fear for two pillars of that American mansion. One is that many of our young people have little interest in knowing our history. Not knowing becomes not caring. And, secondly, a search for “pure-souled men and women who toil and sacrifice” in our state and federal governments for the people’s benefit might net only a handful of those who represent us.

Having lived most of my own life, Sgt. Hosbrook, I want to thank you for your generation’s sacrifices which laid the foundation for that beautiful mansion we have inherited. If the roof’s leaking, we will fix it. We’re still a proud, generous, and I hope righteous nation. On our birthday, the Fourth of July, may we celebrate the best of America and redouble our effort to honor — and know — our history.

James F. Burns is a retired professor at the University of Florida.

 

Comments

News

Nesting no more: Eagles appear to have moved on from Duke’s Buck Station

Business

The Smoke Pit leaving downtown Salisbury for standalone building on Faith Road

Education

Shoutouts

High School

High school football: Hornets’ Gaither set the tone against West

Local

Salisbury to show off new fire station

Education

Livingstone College to host virtual Big Read events this month

Local

City makes some appointments to local boards, holds off on others to seek women, appointees of color

Education

Education briefs: RCCC instructor honored by Occupational Therapy Association

Local

Second quarter financial update shows promising outlook for city’s budget

Columnists

Genia Woods: Let’s talk about good news in Salisbury

Local

City attorney will gather more information for Salisbury nondiscrimination ordinance

Education

North Hills planning to hold May fundraiser in person

East Spencer

Developers aim to transform former Dunbar School site into multi-purpose community development

Education

Knox student organizing event to get community cycling

Education

Decision on Essie Mae charter appeal expected Thursday

Nation/World

House passes sweeping voting rights bill over GOP opposition

Nation/World

Police uncover ‘possible plot’ by militia to breach Capitol

Nation/World

States rapidly expanding vaccine access as supplies surge

News

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper receives COVID-19 vaccine

News

North Carolina health officials urge schools to reopen

Crime

In letter, PETA criticizes Salisbury Police for K-9 video

Coronavirus

Three deaths, 29 new COVID-19 positives reported

Crime

Blotter: Bullet holes found in woman’s Park Avenue apartment

Crime

Man faces assault charges for domestic incident