Healthcare and the Delaware

As Christmas 2009 came and went and I reflected on the Senate vote of Christmas Eve, my mind turned to a story first heard as a child- and the famous painting of it- Washington Crossing the Delaware. While the painting was inaccurate, the story is very real.

I’m sure you remember the story. On Christmas Day, 1776, General George Washington- to become our 1st President 13 years later- begins crossing the Delaware River for a surprise attack on Hessian forces in Trenton, NJ. 2,400 troops massed at 3 PM to begin the crossing at sunset, which was be completed by midnight. The logistics of moving this many troops in 50 foot boats across the river was challenging at best; the entire process made far more difficult by the frigid, icy weather. It was 4 AM of the 26th before the troops were across the river and ready for attack.

The ensuing battle left three Americans dead with 120 Hessians killed or injured with some 1000 captured.

These three Americans died for a cause, a cause that I doubt they fully understood. At the time, there was not even the concept of a nation. The colonies’ Declaration of Independence from Great Brittan was only months old, the fledgling nation would not send the Articles of Confederation to the States for adoption for another year, and it would be eleven years before the US Constitution would be adopted and sent to the states for consideration. These rebels died for a simple concept, that of freedom yet to be defined. The only concept that they likely understood – and for which they were willing to die – was that it was not right for some far-away government to dictate their actions or what they could own.

233 years to the day from when General Washington ordered preparations- 3 days rations and that his men keep blankets handy, knowing fully the hardships and the risks they would face the next day for this abstract cause- the US Senate passed the healthcare bill.  A bill which if concurred by the US House and signed by the 44th political descendent of Washington, will dictate that all Americans purchase health insurance- which be enforced through the IRS under ultimate threat of imprisonment. Those who passed it call this a “right”, equal in their eyes to that of the God-given, inalienable rights of life and liberty.

This brings to mind the words of Thomas Jefferson, in a letter penned in 1787, “The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. …If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty… What country before ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms… What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

I am hopeful of an electoral revolution in 2010 and 2012, but the only manure I smell today is that of nationalized healthcare.

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