The Christmas parade has grown into a significant event in contemporary American history. The Committee for the Republic, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., marched in the Little Washington parade for the first time this year and hosted a performance afterwards on the corner of Jett and Gay streets. They provide forums to encourage citizens to protect their liberty through self-education, debate and exposure to diverse viewpoints.
The Committee also hosts performances of the founders dressed in colonial costumes. Thomas Paine, portrayed by me, was one of the voices of the American Revolution. His “Common Sense” pamphlets inspired English subjects of the crown to become citizens of a republic.
George Washington was portrayed by Kevin Grantz, the leader of the Richmond-based Virginia Patriots which conducts colonial re-enactments, including the famous Saint John’s Episcopal Church “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech by Patrick Henry. Mayor John Sullivan designated “George” as the Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade. Washington led the parade mounted on a large horse provided by Sherry Hamill-Huff. Denise Chandler was a wizard in organizing the parade and providing the speaker system for the Committee’s performance. Chris Bird generously donated his hay wagon as a platform for the founders.
Thomas Paine thanked Gen. Washington for giving his name to our town in Rappahannock County and the mayor for ensuring his leadership role in the Christmas Parade. Washington highlighted the advice he rendered in his famous farewell address for protecting republican liberty, including avoiding the accumulation of public debt, “overgrown military establishments” and partisanship.
Paine thanked Washington for his timeless advice and then asked James Madison (portrayed by Bruce Fein) whether citizens today are honoring it. Washington’s advice has been scorned – Madison declared with indignation – and citizens no longer demand adherence to the Constitution. Madison said our entangling alliances today resemble the British Empire we fought more than two centuries ago. He observed that the U.S. is obligated to go to war if any of the 27 NATO member nations, Japan or South Korea are attacked.
Madison questioned the rationale of the wars being fought in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. is spending a staggering $1.2 trillion yearly policing the world with bases in 150 countries manned by more than 200,000 American soldiers. Madison said citizens must choose between liberty and permanent war in search of a futile and self-defeating quest for a risk-free existence. A people of sheep, he said, will beget a government of wolves.
Alexander Hamilton (Bill Nitze) supported Madison’s conclusions, noting that the founders explicitly renounced crowning a president with monarchical powers.
Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by Richard Squires) said that “We the People” are the most glorious words in the Constitution. “Because of us,” he said, “you are no longer subjects of the British crown. We made you citizens in the American Republic. Here you are the sovereign. We didn’t create a warfare state. We didn’t create a bailout state. We created a citizen state where you are free to develop your faculties and chart your own destiny.”
George Mason (Richard Viguerie) and Patrick Henry (James Henry) struck an anti-federalist note. Mason quoted the biblical verse about there being nothing new under the sun when it comes to the motives of government and observed that the sovereignty of the individual derives from our Creator. Henry said that he came close to stopping the Constitution, and that history has proved him correct in predicting the infeasibility of limiting the power of the federal government.
Abigail Adams (Caroline Casey) read excerpts from her famous letter to her husband to “remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.
“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could,” she said. “If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. That your sex is naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute . . . ”
Dolley Madison was portrayed by Ann Crittenden.
Thomas Paine apologized for not remembering the ladies and said the founders wouldn’t make that mistake again. As the performance showed, he said, the founders didn’t agree about everything, and did not shy from contention, but also didn’t practice political segregation.
John B. Henry