Guest Opinion: Time to celebrate America’s founding

Published 6:30 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By John Hood

For political journalists, a standard tool of the trade is the New Year prediction column. Especially when the date is an even number, signifying the start of a presidential or midterm election cycle, pundits typically offer up a series of forecasts about who will win, who will lose, and whom the losers will blame.

(Who’ll take credit for the wins? The victorious candidates, of course! That’s no prediction. That’s a metaphysical certitude.)

Get the latest headlines sent to you

On first impression, such columns may seem awfully risky. After all, pundits possess no great superhuman insight that other folks lack. We inevitably get some predictions wrong. Often many are wrong. Doesn’t that ruin our credibility?

Nah. Let’s face it: most of us have little credibility to risk. Readers enjoy prediction columns even though they recognize columnists are far from prescient. And columnists enjoy writing them even though they recognize some readers (not most, thank goodness) will actually remember the predictions.

As we enter the 2024 election cycle — try not to shudder when you read that, I dare you — I’ve decided not to predict the future. I’m going to do something else, something surprising, perhaps even transgressive. I’m going to predict the past.

Or, more to the point, I’m going to predict some 2024 events that I know are going to occur, because they will be commemorations of important events in the history of America in general and North Carolina in particular.

I refer to the approaching semiquincentennial of our country’s birth as an independent republic. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution declaring 13 of Britain’s North American colonies to be “free and independent states.” Two days later, on July 4, delegates to the Congress approved (and perhaps signed) the formal Declaration of Independence as we know it today.

The celebration of America’s 250th birthday won’t start in 2026, however. It’s already begun. Last month, there were commemorations in Massachusetts and elsewhere of the semiquincentennial of the Boston Tea Party, which occurred on December 16, 1773. Over the course of the ensuing year, outraged patriots across the colonies took a number of additional steps toward a decisive break with Britain:

  • On July 18, 1774, Virginia leaders George Washington and George Mason presented a document at the Fairfax County Courthouse. Their “Fairfax Resolves” challenged British abuses of colonists’ rights and called for the convening of a Continental Congress to discuss how to respond.
  • Other colonies took up the cause. On August 25, delegates representing 44 counties and towns met in New Bern as North Carolina’s first Provincial Congress. While affirming their loyalty to King George III, the North Carolina leaders declared that “any act of Parliament imposing a tax is illegal and unconstitutional,” and that “our Provincial Assemblies, the King by his governors constituting one branch thereof, solely and exclusively possess that right.”
  • On September 5, 1774, the first Continental Congress began its proceedings in Philadelphia. North Carolina’s three delegates were Joseph Hewes and William Hooper, both of whom signed the Declaration of Independence two years later, and Richard Caswell, who became our state’s first governor.
  • On October 25, 1774, Penelope Barker organized a protest in Edenton. Fifty-one women met to declare their opposition to “taxation without representation” and pledging not to purchase British imports of tea and cloth. “It is a duty that we owe not only to our near and dear connections,” they stated, “but to ourselves.”

The town’s historical commission has embarked on a yearlong commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the Edenton Tea Party. The North Carolina Department of Natural and Resources is coordinating a broader effort, in conjunction with the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, to recognize key North Carolina contributions to the fight for independence. Private initiatives such as the American Enterprise Institute’s We Hold These Truths project will focus additional attention on the founding principles of our country.

I’m looking forward to the celebration — and to the address President Haley will deliver in Philadelphia on July 4, 2026.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member.