John Stark was a genuine hero of the American Revolutionary War or, if you prefer, America’s War for Independence. That he is not generally known beyond the borders of his native New Hampshire is hardly surprising. After George Washington, not many Americans can name a general of that war. And New Hampshire has made General Stark so much its own that his famous saying, “Live Free or Die,” has been adopted as the state motto and been engraved on all the state’s noncommercial license plates since 1969, replacing the word “Scenic.” The motto has not been universally appreciated, however, and one citizen’s insistence on taping over it became a legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Why is it that so much of the world seems mired in hatreds, violence, slavery, and pain? The reason is not complex: Most of the Old World is a patchwork of empires. America was founded, specifically, to create a republic of ordered liberty and to reject the poison of empire. The British Empire, which America's early settlers had left, was one of the more benign. The Commonwealth democracies of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have separated from the United Kingdom gracefully and stayed on good terms with it. Still, would not everyone in Canada have been better off if the French in Québec had been left alone or, now, simply allowed — even encouraged — to form their own nation or a semi-independent polity?
Schoolchildren learn of the crucial and timely role played by France in the American victory over King George III’s redcoats. The personification of the invaluable Gallic assistance to the American cause of liberty is none other than the Marquis de Lafayette.
Although known to history by his aristocratic title, Lafayette was born Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert de Motier. For obvious reasons, we will continue the tradition of referring to this hero of the Revolution by the much more manageable monicker: LaFayette.
Several landmark documents from English history have contributed significantly to our own Constitution bulwark of liberty. One of these documents just celebrated a birthday.
In the year 1930, the city of Tiflis (now Tbilisi) was a captive capital. The ancient city in the heart of the Caucasus, with its mountain scenery and splendid architecture, was enduring, with the rest of the Soviet Union, the onset of Stalin’s reign of terror. As elsewhere in the Soviet Union, ordinary people had become practiced in the arts of sullen self-preservation. Perhaps that was why no one offered to help the men working to extricate one of their party from an overturned car before the badly damaged vehicle burst into flames. The men wore business suits and spoke English, though few of the passersby recognized the unfamiliar tongue. The man trapped in the car, on the other hand, was a feral-faced communist “handler,” a man with considerable clout in the Soviet government.