The Pen is Mightier than the Empire!

I just wanted to wish everyone a happy and reflective Independence Day.

We often forget the extreme bravery it took for those 56 colonists to sign the Declaration of Independence and tell the most powerful man in the world;

“Take your British Empire and stuff it! – Oh, and by the way, King George, here’s my name, you know where I live.”

British Troops hunted many of the signers down and tortured them to force them to renounce their pledge. Not one of them renounced their conviction to liberty or the commitment of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom, even though for some it was a horrible death.

Before the Declaration, everyone who was living on Earth or had ever lived did so at the pleasure and under the tyrannical yoke of a King, Potentate, Dictator, Emperor, Pope, or other “Men” who granted rights to their subjects and solely decided how the masses lived, and how they died.

America, as declared on July 4th 1776, broke with that worldwide, centuries-old practice of oppression by declaring the radical notion that people had the right to be free. In today’s terms, the Declaration instilled a “firewall” into the human program, namely the idea that rights come from above, be it God, the Supreme Judge of the world, the creator, the Laws of Nature, and of Nature’s God or whatever else you hold it to be, but not, repeat NOT, another man or men. And no man or group of men can take those natural-born rights away from any human.

This year, it is crucial for all of us to reflect on our Declaration’s firewall and the message our Nation was founded on.

“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.”


Here follows a list of the First Americans. They who mutually pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor.

FYI, the youngest was Edward Rutledge, 26, and the eldest Benjamin Franklin, 80.

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton 
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr. Arthur Middleton 
Massachusetts: John Hancock 
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton 
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross 
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean 
NewYork: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris 
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark 
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry 
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery 
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott 

Free Press in China?

Tom Avitabile, Free Press in ChinaI once recommended to an economic expert on China a trailer for an upcoming book. My vision was to have the economist standing on the Great Wall of China, explaining to the camera that seven centuries ago this was the technological achievement of mankind.

Then the economist holds up an iPad, explaining that this is the current technological achievement of mankind. Both from China. Interesting, I thought, that the technological impetus has come around full circle from the Great Wall to the Great iPad.

But when you look deeper, look at all the things they missed.

For example, we have the Bill of Rights. All the greatest (and wealthiest) men of the day had the notion that it was necessary to specifically enumerate the rights that were at the heart of the conflict of England and the Revolution, and they eventually got it down to 10.

Extra credit reading: Look up the original Bill of Rights.

If you go to the National Archives in Washington, DC you can see that there were actually 12 amendments in the original Bill of Rights.

  • The original 1st amendment set out rules for districting the House of Representatives – a scheme that would have made today’s Congress 6,000+ members strong.
  • The original 2nd amendment stated that Congress cannot ratify its own proposed pay raises until after the next Congressional election. This would eventually become the 27th amendment, ratified in 1992.

The elimination of these two amendments cleared the way so that right up there at number one, which the Chinese never considered, was a nasty little thing called Freedom of the Press. (Now as a writer, I think it’s inherently unfair to reveal the Founder’s early draft, after all, they didn’t publish until they had the 10 and if you saw any of my earlier drafts I’d dig a hole and hide.)

Freedom of the Press (along with Speech and Religion) was a founding part of this nation’s psyche, government and culture. Last month that little notion of freedom arose again in a small revolution in South China. Not exactly the Redcoats against the farmers, but a small local newspaper dared to print something close to the truth. This brought upon it a hefty dose of scorn and consternation from the old party apparatchiks of the ruling elite in Beijing.

But then, with the internet and with the world going the way it is, those old Chinese guys in the Politburo must have said to themselves “Hey wait, what’s so bad about this?” or “Hey, maybe if we give them just a little, we can keep a lid on this thing.”

Perhaps they had this old Chinese proverb in mind when they decided to loosen up a bit:

That which doesn’t bend, breaks.

So they bent a little. A seemingly tacit allowance of what would, five years ago, buy you a ticket to the reeducation camp or a bullet in the brain – a bullet your own family would be billed for after your death – Communist Party family values being what they are.

But here is the most tantalizing question of all, if the Chinese Communists were to suffer a come to Jefferson moment and, more unbelievably, grant a Bill of Rights to their billions of subjects which of our 10 would never see the light of a Chinese day?

Send me your answer vis-a-vis the comment section.  I’ll give you my ‘forbidden amendment’ next time.

Tom Avitabile, Free Press in China?

Tom Avitabile