This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And all show long, we're celebrating July 4th.
And what's a July 4th celebration without fireworks? Up next, a story from Joel Wegener from Loveland, Ohio. Which is just outside of Cincinnati. Joel and his bride have 10 children. And working in the education field, Joel had to find ways in the summer to make some extra cash. Here's Joel to tell us about one of the more explosive business ideas he has.
It was a long Highway 61 between St. Louis and Hannibal, a busy highway there. And it was a relatively small tent. And we leased the area and then we brought in a tent every year and put fireworks in it. The people that frequent a fireworks stand are just a little bit different.
And not in a bad way. In fact, there was one part of me that just kind of related really well with them. And so it was always a fun time just to go and hang out with pyromaniacs. And my daughter, my oldest daughter actually named our business Pyromaniac Paradise.
And so that's what we called the business. But yeah, we met some very interesting people. Unfortunately, many of the people that buy fireworks and many of the events around the Fourth of July also involve alcohol. And that is never a good combination of fireworks and alcohol.
But that was often the case. And I remember one evening, we were getting close to the end of the day and a guy rolled up in his pickup truck and had obviously been drinking. And in the back of his truck, he told us that there was a fireworks that didn't work. And he was very upset that the fireworks was not working. And so we looked in the back of his pickup truck and the big 500 gram cake of fireworks had a smoldering fire inside of it and it had not been discharged. And he had, there were some ropes that you were supposed to use to carry the product. And he thought that was what you had lit.
So he had been trying to light these two ropes along the side. And so it was smoldering as he did the back of his truck. So we quickly assess the situation, knew we needed to get his truck and the firework away from the fireworks tent. And so we were able to do that. And we probably, looking back, the wise thing would have been to try to get some water and put it all out.
But in our pyromaniac tendencies, we decided just to go ahead and discharge it and see what happened. And so we had quite the fireworks right there at a safe distance from the tent. At another event that happened, we had a fireworks tent and about a mile from us, someone and a competitor came in and had put in a tent and that always, I always got so nervous if I had competitors around me. So I was nervous that he was going to steal all my business and all that.
But you know, be that as it may. But I did notice every night when I left, I drove past there to go to my parents house to sleep. And we always either packed up all of our fireworks or we had someone stay there all night to guard it. So I noticed that it seemed that they dropped the tents and left and I wasn't there to see them packing up, but I never saw them packing up. All I saw was the tents were dropped. There wasn't a camper. There wasn't anybody around it. And I found that very unusual. So about a week into the fireworks season, someone called me and said, did you hear on the news that a fireworks tent went up in smoke north of Troy, which Troy was the town we were in.
I knew I had unloaded all of mine and you know, so it wouldn't have been mine, but I was curious. And so we went and looked and lo and behold, they had left all their fireworks in this tent unguarded night after night. Somebody figured that out. And so they put a trail of gasoline under the flap of the tent and trailed it out a ways and let it and the whole fireworks tent went up in smoke. You know, they made the mistake of sticking around to watch it too long.
Not the smartest pyromaniacs around. And so it was going off. A neighbor woke up and saw these guys running across his yard.
There was dew on the ground. And so the police were able to track their tracks back into the woods and find them. But anyway, it was a it was an exciting time.
Not the way that I really wanted to get rid of competition, but definitely eliminated that competition for that year. So, but yeah, a lot of stories, a lot of interesting people that we met, but we we always had fun, always excitement happening at the fireworks stand. And it's so true. Fireworks and alcohol.
Not a good combination. And I've seen it myself. And a great job is always by Robbie on the production, the storytelling and the editing. And thanks to Joel Wegener for sharing his summer job stories.
By the way, if you've got a good summer job story, a first job story, share with us. We continue with our Fourth of July special here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to our American stories dot com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
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Here's Hillsdale College President Dr. Arnn with the story of what happened next. The stakes were life and death. There was a warrant issued for their arrest to the British general commanding the troops in North America.
In other words, not an order to a policeman who would put them in jail and then take them before a judge, a soldier who would detain them and ship them to England or hang them on the spot where they were arrested. So that's, you know, the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence says, in support of this declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. And many of them lost those lives or their fortunes, none of them their honor.
So the huge stakes. You know, it's hard for us to look back on the past and understand that they're living just the way we are without knowledge of the future. And if you can grasp that fact about the people in Philadelphia, those men in that little room were both, by the way, the same room. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted and ratified.
They just passed it and put their names on the Declaration of Independence in that room. And, you know, we know what the king thought. The king thought, this is a crazy claim. I'm the king. There's always a king. There has to be a king. And you have to obey the king.
And the king, by the way, has to be good to you. And so this is crazy. So they're introducing a thing that nobody believes and then add to it. They're introducing it in controversy, ultimately treason against the strongest living force, the British Empire and its Navy especially, but also its army recently twice beaten France in major wars. Right.
And so what possible chance could they have? You know, because they when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, they didn't really have anything that you could call an army. And George Washington had been appointed head of it because he had the most experience of anybody in war, of anybody in the revolutionary side.
But he had never moved a large body of troops from one place to another or fed them along the way in his life. And the British were practiced at all that stuff and had hundreds of staff guys who knew all about how to do that. And so in the beginning, the war was ridiculous because we couldn't get our army around anywhere.
And the British would always just encircle us. Right. It was just funny how bad it was. We didn't have opinion polls back then, but the guesses tend to congregate around 30 percent strongly for the revolution. And a majority of the rest against or leaning against and a bunch of people trying to make up their minds.
So it wasn't propitious. And if you just think about it, this is a people, by the way, you have to remember this. For 150 years, English settlers especially had been on the North American continent and they had developed the richest, deepest practices and institutions of self-government in human history. And they did that on their own. And the British had influence on it through the appointment of a governor general in each of the colonies.
But that was it. Right. And they raised their own taxes and they paid their own bills.
And so they had all that. And they're used to deciding things for themselves. Now, on the other hand, this is like a huge decision and nobody knows where it's going to go.
And we're used to these British and are they really so bad? And so, of course, it's plausible to me, although we don't really know, that most people were very reluctant about this. And so the implausibility of it also demonstrates something. And that is they really believe this and they were prepared to die for it.
And that's the only reason it worked. The Declaration of Independence is ratified. And then, of course, everything goes wrong for months. They did take Boston because Henry Knox went and got the cannon from Fort Ticonderoga, which Ethan Allen had liberated, dragged them across winter roads, got them up on a hill and they now could shoot down on the British ships and the British ships had to leave.
But after that, everything was a disaster. They went up to New York because the British are going up there now. Here's Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Valiant Ambition, George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, presenting a Hillsdale College CCA with the story of what happened next. The empire is about to strike back and a huge fleet arrives in New York. Ultimately 40,000 soldiers and sailors and a fleet of 400 vessels.
This is more people than in all of Philadelphia, the largest urban center in North America at that time. And there is Washington dug into New York and the high ground in Brooklyn. He's completely out-generaled in what will be called the Battle of Long Island. The British just simply completely out-maneuvered Washington.
I mean, it was embarrassing. And he had to run his army down New Jersey, escaping with their lives. He's lost most of his army to desertion. But what Washington had an ability to do is Washington had an, and I speak of him, he had a true genius. He wasn't a genius like, let's say, founding fathers Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton. He was not a jittery, brilliant person, eloquent and a mind that could go anywhere. He had the ability to dial out the static of life. And believe me, as Washington retreated across New Jersey to the other side of the Delaware River, there was a lot of static out there, a lot of naysayers.
He had the ability to just say, okay, what is the most important thing for me to do now? And so there in the Delaware, he realized we've got to have some kind of comeback strategy here. If we're going to do it, we have to shock them. It's the only way we can turn this around.
In our first year, we're going to have only defeat. So on Christmas night, he crosses the Delaware and attacks Trenton. And he hoped to wake them up.
He had a main man in his army who organized all the boats to get everybody over. And of course, they were three hours late. So now it's 10 o'clock.
Their hope of surprise, they think, is gone. And Washington says, we're going to go on anyway because if we don't win here, we're going to be dead by nightfall. And while they get there and the Hessian soldiers, and they were from a German state called Hesse, they'd had a very nice Christmas night. And they were drunk in bed when the Americans got there. And they took the place and hardly a casualty on the American side.
And then something bad happened. The report comes that Cornwallis is coming down in relief. He's got to stop Cornwallis at Princeton. And when he gets there, the American troops are in flight.
They're running. Washington didn't say anything. He just rode his horse directly through the troops toward the enemy.
When Washington got close to the British, he didn't have any way to know if anybody was with him. But they had all turned around and fallen in line alongside Washington. And he pulls his sword out.
His horse is just walking steadily. And there's a great volley. And Washington is shrouded in smoke. And then the smoke cleared and there was a great cheer because he was just still on his horse in the same posture, still going. And the British, they basically just turned around and ran from him.
And what a story you're hearing. And imagine being there, not knowing what was going to happen next. Because no one did. As Dr. Arnn routinely points out to his students, the men then didn't know what was going to happen. And they did risk everything. Everything. Fame, fortune, and their lives.
But not their honor, as Dr. Larry Arnn points out. When we come back, more of this remarkable story, how America won its independence and the stakes involved, here on Our American Story. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop. But for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot.
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It's one of the most amazing comebacks in military history. But what I began to realize with Washington, his genius was also and primarily so political. He had to deal with Congress. So, most of Washington's career in the Revolutionary War was a tremendous mess. The Congress wasn't paying them, and it wasn't paying them because it didn't have any money, and it didn't have any money because the states wouldn't give it any money, although they would promise to. And the great danger when it came to revolutions and republics that all of them would end with a military coup.
The civil government in the wake of a revolution is inefficient, frustrating. The military, whether it's Caesar, whether it's Cromwell in England, or in the future Napoleon, someone takes control and the dream ends. And this is what Continental Congress was fearful of. So they kept Washington on a very tight leash. And the more successful Washington got, the more untrustworthy congressmen became. And the following year would come the Battle of Saratoga, in which largely through the heroics of Benedict Arnold, America would score a great victory with Horatio Gates as the commanding officer. Meanwhile, Washington lost a series of battles that battled Brandywine and Germantown, allowing the British to move into Philadelphia.
This got the politicians to wondering whether Washington was the right person. His army is dug into Valley Forge that terrible winter, and there is an attempt to replace Washington with Horatio Gates. And he suffered with the troops, and he kept it together, and he kept his army in being. You know, he was one of these people, he was not necessarily the greatest military strategist in the world, but he was terrific at working with people, at seeing the big side of things.
And when people see things like that, it's printed in them. It makes them better because they aspire to such things. And his integrity was never doubted. He succeeds in getting through that terrible winter at Valley Forge, and from then on, particularly with a stellar performance at the Battle of Monmouth, he's in. He is the unquestioned face of not only the Continental Army, but he is becoming the face of America, and absolutely essential to all this. One of his best generals, Benedict Arnold, moves in the other direction. He ultimately decides that while Washington's destiny to hold the country together, it's his destiny to try to tear that country apart. And he unsuccessfully attempts to surrender West Point, where there are 3,000 soldiers and all sorts of armaments and ammunition. That is foiled, but America is at an absolute low point.
Recruitment levels in the states were miserable. There just was nothing going on, but there was good news. In 1778, after that great victory at Saratoga, France had decided to enter the revolution on our side. Cornwallis is dug into a town at the end of the point formed by the James and York Rivers, Yorktown, and the trap closes around Lord Cornwallis. Lord Cornwallis is forced to surrender, thus delivering the victory that Washington had foreseen. And Washington could have been made a king after this great victory. Some people wanted him to be, thus ending our experiment and proving the suspicions of some members in Congress right. But that's not what happened.
So what did? Washington has determined that he will surrender his military commission to Congress. When George III hears that this is Washington's intention, he says that if Washington does that, he will be the greatest man in the world. And that's what Washington did.
He does that. He was so overwhelmed with emotion that he had to hold his shaking right hand with his left while he delivered his speech. Here's Dr. Arnn delivering that speech. Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resigned with satisfaction the appointment I accepted with diffidence, a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of heaven. It is an indispensable duty to close this last act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God.
Having finished the work assigned to me, I retire from the great theater of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission and take my leave of all the employments of public life. What a way to end, you know, which has got to be one of the most consequential wars in all of human history. It established the United States of America, and he was the man who commanded it. And everyone knew it was his strategy that it won. And everyone knew that it was his determination and moral force that it kept an army in being able to fight through many defeats and through impoverishment and lack of supply.
And so he was the greatest man in the world. On this fourth of July, remember the courage and sacrifice of our founding fathers to see through to victory a seemingly unwinnable and at times unpopular war. It's a uniquely American courage that they displayed, and it's something to be proud of. Here's Gerald R. Ford reflecting on that for America's bicentennial.
On Washington's birthday in 1861, a fortnight after six states had formed a confederacy of their own, Abraham Lincoln came here to Independence Hall knowing that in ten days he would face the cruelest national crisis of our 85-year history. I am filled with deep emotion, he said, at finding myself standing here in the place where collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle from which sprang the institutions under which we live. Today we can all share these simple noble sentiments like Lincoln, I feel both pride and humility, rejoicing and reverence. As I stand in the place where two centuries ago the United States of America was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. The world knows where we stand. The world is ever conscious of what Americans are doing, for better or for worse, because the United States today remains the most successful realization of humanity's universal hope. The world may or may not follow, but we lead because our whole history says we must.
Liberty is for all men and women as a matter of equal and unalienable right. The establishment of justice and peace abroad will in large measure depend upon the peace and justice we create here in our own country, for we still show the way. And a terrific job on the production and storytelling by Monty Montgomery himself, a Hillsdale grad. A special thanks to Nathaniel Philbrick, a world-class historian, and Dr. Larry Arne, not only a world-class historian, but a terrific teacher and leader of his own. Hillsdale College proudly supports this program and we proudly have him as a partner.
The story of the greatest man, the greatest movement, and the greatest document ever conceived. Here on Our American Stories, our July 4th special continues. I know everything there is to know about running a coffee shop, but for small business insurance, I need my State Farm agent. They make sure my business stays piping hot, and I stay cool and confident. See, they're small business owners too, so they know how to help you best. State Farm is in your corner and on it. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.
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Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. This is Our American Stories, and you've been listening to our special 4th of July edition. And here is our production team reading the Declaration of Independence. The opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, that to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long and established should not be changed for light and transient causes. And accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies. And such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.
To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. 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 action, he has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till the assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time after such disillusions to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands. He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
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 harass our people and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent and superior to the civil power. 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 quartering large bodies of armed troops among us, for protecting them by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states, for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world, for imposing taxes on us without our consent, for depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury, for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses, for abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies, for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our government, for suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated government here by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy, the head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to follow themselves by their hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions. In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice in magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.
They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consequently. We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace, friends. We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress, assembled, appealing to the supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies, these united colonies, these united colonies, these united colonies, these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that as free and independent states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. 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.
And great job to our entire Our American Story staff. By the way, Dr. Benjamin Rush confessed to John Adams many years later about the hushed silence that pervaded Independence Hall, because all the men who signed that document knew they were signing their death warrant. And I think the most important words written about this document were uttered by Reverend Martin Luther King on July 4th, 1981. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. This is a dream.
It's a great dream. The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn't say some men. It says all men. Never before in the history of the world has such a sociopolitical document expressed in such profound, eloquent, and universal language the dignity and worth of the human personality. Every man is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth. The Declaration of Independence celebrated here on Our American Stories.
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