The Permanent Revolution
July 6, 1955 — Independence Day Exercises, Faneuil Hall, Boston MA
Ladies and gentlemen, today, in this historic Faneuil Hall, revered by all American patriots but especially beloved by Bostonians, we come together to commemorate the 179th signing of the Declaration of Independence. You may guess with what emotion, with what a mingled sense of pride and humbleness I speak to you today, in this place, known throughout America as the Cradle of Liberty.
I remember that well over two centuries ago, Peter Faneuil, a Huguenot refugee from the political and religious intolerance of an Old World king fled to Boston, that he prospered and was happy here, and that in gratitude he gave this hall to his townsfolk for a market place. Before the last brick had been laid, Peter Faneuil died. His eulogy was delivered at the first annual town meeting by the master of the Boston Latin School, John Lovell. In concluding Lovell said, “What now remains, but my ardent wishes . . . that this hall may be ever sacred to the interests of truth, of justice, of loyalty, of honor, of liberty. May liberty always spread its joyful wings over this place. Liberty that opens men’s hearts to beneficence and gives the relish to those who enjoy the effects of it.”
And so it has been. Since that far-off day, the walls of Faneuil Hall have echoed to the eloquent voices and the heroic foot steps of the greatest patriots in our history Washington and Lafayette, Daniel Webster. Charles Sumner, Wendell Phillips — who made his greatest antislavery speech here — are but a few.
I, a daughter of New England, and a child of Connecticut, presume to share this hour here with you only because I know that it behooves your speaker to say nothing original, nothing startling, nothing new. Yet I feel that a moment of beauty, ever old and ever new, is achieved whenever we make a reaffirmation of our dedication to John Lovell’s ideals — truth, justice, loyalty, honor. liberty. Indeed, this reaffirmation is the prime duty of the glorious Fourth.
Today historians are accustomed to say that what began in 1776 was not properly a “revolution” but rather a colonial rebellion. The word “revolution” (they say) connotes the idea of destroying an old order and establishing a new order, after the fashion of what happened in the France of 1789 and in the Russia of 1917.
Certainly, this is not what happened in the America of 1776. The proof of this assertion lies in the latter section of the Declaration of Independence. Few people listen carefully to the reading of this section — a lengthy legal indictment of George III as a “tyrant.” But this indictment makes it quite clear that the American colonial rebellion was staged in the name not of a new order—but of an old order. It was staged in the name of that tradition of freedom and order whose repository was the British Constitution. It was the intention of the rebelling colonists to reestablish this old order and this venerable tradition by giving to their sustaining inner principles — which our Founding Fathers passionately believed to be external principles of justice under law and God—a newly vital political expression. Renovation, not innovation, was their purpose. To preserve and extend the political values of the past and the spiritual truths of Christianity, not to create new political values, or new spiritual truths, was their clearly seen and clearly stated objective.
Our Founding Fathers took up arms to vindicate for themselves the traditional rights of Englishmen, guaranteed by long standing laws.
These rights were in substance the rights of the Christian citizen who, because he is a Christian, knows his own personal dignity, and also knows the duty of society to a higher law, a law not made by earthly powers, but written by the Creator in the very nature of man.
The essential appeal made by the spokesmen of the American Revolution — most of them men trained in the common law of England — was to this tradition of a higher law, the law that they called “natural.”
In this inviolable law they found the strong roots of all the personal freedoms that they cherished and claimed. In this natural law they also found the sanction for the order of social life that they sought to establish on the American Continent. They fought for liberty indeed — for liberation from the yoke of a rule grown harsh and tyrannical, and therefore ungodly. The Declaration of Independence makes this clear, But this historic document makes it equally clear that the freedom for which our forbears fought was not the illusory autonomy of the 18th century continental rationalist who fancied himself to be free from all law be cause he had begun to fancy that man— every individual man was a law unto him self.
The freedom of American society — so our Founding Fathers thought — was to be an ordered freedom, a freedom under God and under the law. The rights of the Ameri can citizen — so they likewise thought — were those rights which we call unalienable precisely because man is not endowed with them by other men, but by Him who is the author both of the individual man and of human society.
This was the doctrine of the American Revolution. It was a conservative doctrine. But what it sought to conserve was an idea that is forever revolutionary. The idea that man can govern himself, under law. The Founding Fathers themselves were quite aware of the revolutionary character of this idea. Liberty and self-government, George Washington said, are “finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the American people.” That “grand scheme and design in providence,” John Adams called it. Lincoln who in his own day called our form of government “the last best hope” of mankind, called the revolution “the germ which has vegetated and still is to grow and expand into the universal liberty of mankind.” Said Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The office of America is to liberate.” Of the startling and beneficent results in human affairs that the doc trine of the revolution could effect, every American President has been convinced. Every year of our history has committed us to the office, as Emerson called it, of liberation achieved by the spreading of our revolutionary doctrine.
If this be true, then we must not shrink when we are told that our future task, our great historic task, is to continue the American Revolution, both by perfecting here in America and also by helping other peoples to establish the universal principles of liberty in their own homelands. For our concept is universal — and applies to all mankind.
In this task, all mankind is our potential ally. The desire for liberty is the eternal ferment in the affairs of men. The need for order is the eternal inner form that keeps this ferment from wasting itself in political turbulences that lead to bloody civil and international strife.
Throughout the world today the human desire for freedom from ancient tyrannies, exploitations, injustices, and inequalities, is agitating peoples everywhere — especially colonial peoples. To help lead these peoples into the path toward true freedom, where ever our leadership can be made effective by example, by aid, by wise diplomacy, is today the supreme challenge to our statecraft.
The newly tyrannical colonialism that follows in the wake of tyrannical Soviet imperialism now threatens to engulf all of Asia as it has already engulfed great portions of Europe. It threatens to imprison behind the Iron Curtain more millions of people whose first hopes of liberty were stirred long ago by the world encircling echoes of the voices that once reverberated in the rafters of Faneuil Hall. For they have seen, over the decades, these principles attract here men from many lands in search of freedom. They have seen these principles create here the happiest, strongest, richest, most productive Nation that civilization has ever known.
Today, however, the principles have grown blurred in the minds of many—even un happily of many Americans. The beneficent effects, the material effects, prosperity, productivity, economic progress, are now passionately coveted by those who have too long been denied them by old tyrannies. Communism has falsely promised the world’s malcontents and dispossessed to achieve the new effects rapidly, without the old principles. The falseness of the Communist promise is now widely evident, but the power which communism gained by false promises is still a brutal fact in our world. So today, in 1955, with the United States at the very apex of its power, the great drama of the American Revolution versus the Russian Revolution, the drama of freedom and order under God versus slavery and final chaos under the Kremlin, is inexorably moving to a climax.
Yes, ours is a rich and prosperous and happy land. Nevertheless, one dark and terrible thought tortures every mind and constricts every heart. Can the United States continue the revolution it began? Can we strongly and respectfully press our universal concept of liberty under law upon the world? Can we even safeguard our Revolutionary heritage within cur own boundaries? Can we do all this — short of war?
We know what that war would be like. Atomic weapons would make vast cities, such as this fair city of Boston, radio-active cemeteries. If, for want of vigilance, preparedness, or adequate military intelligence reports, we failed to apprise ourselves in advance of attack, an atomic Pearl Harbor launched by Russia could in a few short hours disrupt our organized national life. Twenty minutes after such an attack, America would never again in our lifetime be as strong as it had been 20 minutes before. Unbearable and unbelievable though the very thought may be, we must face the possibility that such an onslaught might bring to an end our privileged prosperity, and leave us living, or at best surviving amidst the ruins — the ruins not only of our cities, but of the dreams for a free world that we have cherished for two centuries.
Still more unbearable for the Christian conscience to contemplate is the idea that we ourselves should ever launch such a war. No; we will not, must not accept the idea that war is inevitable, or that only war can resolve this gigantic struggle between the freedom of men living under God in faith, and the order of men existing under tyrants in fear.
What then? The temptation is great to avoid war by withdrawal from the struggle, by retirement into isolation, by appeasing. But we have resisted, and will resist that temptation. We know that America was not made by cowards. We know that freedom is more precious than security. We know we will cease to be Americans if we cease trying to fulfill our historic destiny which is to lead the world towards those ideals of Liberty so often propounded here in Faneuil Hall. And this being so, we know we have no choice but to make those efforts — with all their consequent sacrifices which alone have a chance to win victory with peace.
Our first duty is the duty imposed on us by George Washington: eternal vigilance in the conduct of our military affairs. This means the willingness of every able-bodied man to serve his country when called, and of every citizen to pay for what is needed to keep us strong on land, on water, and in the skies. Our second duty is to sup port, in unity a bold and yet cautious foreign policy, activated by a generous and yet prudent diplomacy. And this means our willingness to be helpful and patient with our allies. Looking back, as we are today, for guidance from the great figures of our past, we can get it from Samuel Adams whose statute stands in the square before this hall. Said Samuel Adams, when the question of the conquest of little nations by great ones was raised in his day, “Let Congress study what measures may be taken in common with the European nations, that national differences may be settled and determined without the necessity of war, in which the world has too long been deluged to the disgrace of human reason and government.”
If our peace diplomacy is to succeed, such measures — cold war measures as we have come to call them — of mutual aid and assistance to our allies and to those seeking to maintain their independence from Russia, must be vigorously and generously pursued.
Here, speaking as a diplomat — a member of America’s Foreign Service—I shall permit myself two reflections.
First, I believe that no foreign policy can ever be stronger than the Foreign Service charged with putting it into effect. If the American people want a good Foreign Service, made up of the highest type of dedicated men and women, they must cease being ungenerous and unduly critical toward their Foreign Service. They must begin to treat it with at least the affection and respect and generosity they show to other branches of their Government.
Second, speaking specifically as your Ambassador to Italy, in asking for patience and generosity with our allies, I make a special plea for the young Italian republic. Born only a decade ago, today it is still meeting enormous difficulties. There are the problems created by its own lack of natural re sources, by its understandable want of experience with parliamentary democracy and a consequent factionalism, above all by the existence of millions of Italians who vote for the Communists. We must remember that these misguided millions are the very examples of those whose right desires for a better and fuller life, have been wrongly channeled by the false prophets of the new Soviet order. These Italians want the wrong thing — for their own worldly as well as spiritual salvation when they want communism. But may God bless them, and help to guide them still, they want it for the right reason — they want to be free of the old economic tyrannies that denied them equality of opportunity with others in their society.
America, which has been built and strengthened my immigrants from many lands, knows what fine citizens most Italians make when they come to our land, and to our free cities like Boston. Many more will be coming to our shores in the next year. Let me say in passing that, all news stories to the contrary, I think I can assure you that as regards Italy at least, the President’s Refugee Relief Act will fulfill its provisions. By December 1956, we shall have issued to Italians every one of the visas permitted to us under the law.
The shining fact is that postwar Italy is emerging as a vibrant and dynamic nation. In spite of all its internal difficulties, it moves steadily forward to a sound recovery. And it continues firm in the framework of the great Western alliance. Above all, it has stayed true to its Christian heritage. If we ourselves do not fail Italy, Italy will not fail us, or the West.
I shall conclude with one inspiriting thought. This time of supreme strain is an opportunity for new greatness. We have a rare heritage. We have unlimited spiritual resources on which to draw. Today, on our national birthday, we make newly vital con tact with the treasures in our American tradition. Strengthened by a fresh sense of the inner meaning of our revolutionary past, we face the future with confidence. Our spirit and our resolution today are not other than those expressed by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and echoed anew by President Eisenhower when he said at Evanston, “Now is a time when great things must again be dared in faith. Let us dare again to dedicate our generation to the fairest dream mankind has ever known — the dream that moved us to found a Nation under God in freedom.”
This dream is still fair. But today it is broader. We do not cherish it for ourselves alone. We wish it realized in the wider world of a just and peaceful international community. Unto the task of this new realization let us pledge, as did our forbears, “Our lives, Our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Source: Luce, Clare Boothe, “The Permanent Revolution,” Extension of Remarks of Hon. Albert P. Morano of Connecticut, Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates US Congress. 90th Congress, 1st Session, Vol. 113 — Part 10, May 15, 1967, to May 24, 1967. (Washington DC: Government Printing Office, pp. 742-743.