In our celebrations of our own independence day we often overlook the actions that brought it to such a successful conclusion. The very act of rebellion that was the revolution could easily have ended far more disastrously. But it did not and now we live in a land that has been responsible for promoting liberty and freedom even in the darkest of times. It should come to no one’s surprise. America’s fighting force of patriots was born of the necessity of war. They entered into the world battle hardened and resolved. Sometimes it requires a refinement by fire to emerge battle ready. For the early Continental Army it was a trudge through the bitter cold. The incident at Valley Forge was a proving ground for the American soldier in which he learned a steely resolve that has served his country throughout time. The winter of 1777 was a make-or-break point for the young revolutionary force. General Washington’s estimation sums it up better than anyone could, “that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place…this Army must inevitably…starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can.” 12,000 troops marched into Valley Forge, only 1/3 of them had shoes on their feet. Blood left a red trail behind them due to the stark lack of supplies. Going into the winter retreat the Army had lost two key battles against the British in addition to the new capital established at Philadelphia. As the snow began to fall they made their encampment. The alternate freezing and melting of the snow allowed for disease to creep into the threadbare army, the food was scarce but not scarce enough to allow for starvation, the animals were dying due to disease and exhaustion. Petitions to the Continental Congress yielded no substantial gains. As the gloom of winter set in the tactical position of the Patriots solidified. They were close enough to keep the British from continuing with their campaign but were far enough away to prevent a surprise attack. Yet the positioning was not the remarkable aspect of Valley Forge. It was in the frigid temperature of a cold Pennsylvania winter that our revolution won its most crucial victory. While supplies were low our spirits were not, while battles were lost the morale was not. Because the men of the Continental Army were not the only inhabitants of Valley Forge. Families, wives, mothers, sisters, and children came out into the bitter cold to help however they could. Women mended and laundered the poorly kept and dirty clothing. They also nursed the sick. In our darkest moments, even as our nation was not yet formed, it was the American people acting of their own volition that helped the cause… even when our young congress could not.
Surviving the winter was an impressive feat that built a common bond for a fighting force composed of members of all 13 colonies. But to go on and win the war we needed to do much more than survive. We trained. General Washington appointed Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian drill sergeant, to train the troops. His voice could be heard throughout the camp and he worked tirelessly to bring such a disparate group under a uniform policy. Even though we had little to supply us and even fewer reasons to celebrate our hope endured. We trained to match the professional British force arrayed against us. We trained to create, not only an army, but a nation of free men. Even as disease took a full sixth of the army, some 2,500 men fell to typhoid, jaundice, dysentery and pneumonia; we trained into a professional force that would win the war.
The story of Valley Forge is one that should resonate for us not only as Americans but especially as FairTax advocates. Our appeals to Congress by and large have gone unheeded. We are left to our own devices and currently consist of volunteers that spread throughout the country. We have seen setback after setback in terms of policy measures. We are moving farther away from the ideals at the heart of our movement. The healthcare decision resulted in a gross expansion of the amendment we wish to repeal. The tax discussions of our current leaders revolve exclusively around the ownership of corporate jets and the “greediness” of the 1%. It is never mentioned that the greediness of government that desires more of other’s money while refusing to act responsibly with what they have already taken is something less than virtue. In fact no discussions of taxes are devoid of class warfare. Even the so-called Bush tax cuts are a point of contention even though they have been passed and signed by both Democrat and Republican legislatures and Presidents. For the FairTax advocate it can feel very much like wandering lost in a forest. Just close enough to be tarred with the lies of politicians that profit from such a complicated code but too far away to be part of the discussion of possible alternatives. Our cause, like that of our forefathers, faces troubles in the present. But our circumstances now are not determinate of our destiny. Our resolve is. In the trying times of government expansion, should we starve, dissolve or disperse? When our ideological opponents convince a Supreme Court justice to rewrite legislative intent, do we succumb to the political will or train for tomorrow’s battle? When politicians write us off, misstate our position, or lie about our goals do we sheepishly subside or recommit? Political movements can spend time in the sun and still be ignored or forgotten. Others never break into the light. The difference between the success and failure of these movements is the resolve and determination of its supporters. Resolve is strengthened in the toil of the shadows, determination is hardened in competition. Just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. A Proverb familiar to our Founders to be sure. We are not weakened by our struggle. We learn to fight better. There are many who are upset or discouraged this week. To them I offer this hope. We could not celebrate our independence this week if not for the suffering that took place in Valley Forge. We as a people have suffered under a government centered bureaucracy-creating tax code for nearly a century. Without that servitude we could not have such a desire for freedom that buoys our cause.
236 years later we can judge for ourselves the wisdom in the decisions of those that have come before. Please realize before getting caught in the raging torrent of the political “now”, our successors will judge us with an equally exacting eye. Did we compromise our principles in the name of political expediency or did we boldly act with an unshaken faith in the American people? As our future generations continue to celebrate our independence, will they look at our actions in the spirit of those brave Patriots huddled in the valley, or will we resemble the King who they fought against? Just with those brave men and women so long ago, the choice is yours. That is freedom. May it ever reign.