On this day in history…

…in 1774, a community in Massachusetts begins flying a new flag:

On Oct. 21, 1774, the Taunton Sons of Liberty raised the first flag of opposition to British rule in the American Colonies. On that day, the Liberty and Union flag flew high above the Taunton Green, and now, almost 238 years to the day of that historic event, the flag was proudly raised above the Green once again…

After the public officials spoke, First Parish Church minister Rev. Christana Wille McKnight read the words of Rev. Caleb Barnum, the minister of First Parish Church in 1774, when the Liberty and Union flag was first raised over Taunton. As McKnight spoke, the flag ascended.

“Born to be free, we spurn the knaves who dare for us the chains of slavery to prepare,” Barnum’s words ended, as read by McKnight. “Steadfast in freedom’s cause, we’ll live and die unawed by statesmen, foes to tyranny. But if oppression brings us to our graves and marks us dead, she never shall mark us slaves.”

Many other flags began sprouting up around the colonies as it began to sink in there was no purpose in remaining English if they no longer enjoyed the “rights of Englishmen.”  Even in those heady days, the flag above shows the priorities were in order: liberty was to come first, and union only in the service of that liberty. 

The tension between the two was never far from the surface, however.  Well before the tragedy of the 1860s, a President and Vice-President found themselves on opposite sides of the emphasis:

Never far from the surface, the concept of nullification emerged again in early 1830 in the famous Webster- Hayne Debate.  Later that spring, the president and vice president had a famous confrontation in front of a political gathering. Jackson, knowing of Calhoun’s support for nullification, stared at the Vice President and offered the toast, “Our Federal Union, it must be preserved.” Calhoun stood before the hushed audience and replied, “The Union, next to liberty, most dear.”

Nearly two centuries later, the need to keep these priorities in order is no less important.  As the residents of Taunton realized the futility of English identity without traditional English rights, so must we be vigilant, lest we remain Americans without the American birthright.

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