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The Liberty Tree
Jack Miller

    From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms!
    Through the land let the sound of it flee;
    Let the far and the near all unite, with a cheer,
    In defense of our Liberty Tree.

    Thomas Paine, The Liberty Tree, July 1775

This past summer my wife and I made the decision to cut down a Silver Maple tree which had been standing in our back yard for over forty years. This tree had withstood the rigors of Mother Nature, the nails from long ago tree houses, and a tire swing or two. The man hired to do the job made short work of it. My children stood by a bedroom window and watched with not much fanfare the passing of this mighty tree.

One of the selling points, for me, when we bought the home was the many mature trees on the lot to include this Silver Maple. It was not an easy decision to have it destroyed. This tree caused extensive damage to our septic system and threatened to undermine the foundation of our home. After paying over four thousand dollars to replace this system the decision became much easier. The decision to cut the tree down was strictly monetary.

What I did not count on was the reaction we received from our five-year-old. While the nine-year-old and the two year old "ohhed" and "ahhed" with the cutting of each branch and the falling of each large portion of the trunk, the five-year-old stood in silence. When the man left after an afternoon of work the parts of the tree lay helter skelter on the lawn, the tire swing still attached to one of the fallen limbs. He promised to return the next day and cut the large pieces into smaller ones and use his chipper to finish off the stump. The girls dispersed and were quickly occupied with the whirl of little girl antics…except for the five year old. She asked her mother if she could go in the back yard and look at the tree. With a promise to be careful she was out the door. After about thirty minutes her mother became concerned and went to check on her. What she found was our small daughter clutching one of the branches, crying, and telling God she was sorry daddy had killed the tree. We later found that branch and a small zip lock bag of wood chips in her closet.

I had to react quickly, telling her God had provided that tree to shelter his animals and to provide cool shade for us in the summer. However, It was now time for the tree to serve a new purpose. We are going to use the wood to warm ourselves in the coming winter and the mulch will protect mommy’s flowerbeds and provide for the flowers and shrubs growing there. It didn’t work, Daddy killed the tree. If I had know this would happen I would never have made the decision to cut the tree down, no matter what it cost in future repairs.

I was reminded of this event this past October when a sobering article appeared in the papers around the country. It ran, not as a headline, but as a small feature. Mother Nature had done what no monarchy, army, political corruptness, or civil strife could do. Hurricane Floyd damaged the last Liberty tree beyond hope. With its fifteen foot crack and its hollowed out and diseased trunk it could no longer support its own weight. On October 25, 1999 the last Liberty Tree was cut down.

This 400-year-old Tulip Poplar, resident of the campus of St John’s College in Annapolis Maryland, was the scene of the earliest days of liberty in these United States. As Governor Parris N. Glending talked about the Sons of Liberty meeting under this tree he stated, "Here the seeds of revolution were planted for this country and the world."

With a band, speeches, and a few reporters the tree was destroyed. Because this is America and we always have a flare for the commercial, leaves were handed out along with pieces of the wood from the tree as mementos. There was even talk of scientists cloning the tree from small cuttings that were made from the mighty Liberty Tree. While this is possible we can never clone what this tree stands for. I began to wonder if all this might be an omen of things to come. Have we, as a nation, finally grown beyond our trunk? Can we continue to hold up ourselves let alone the world? In this day of children killing children, mothers killing their children, babies being abandoned, morals ignored even by our leadership…have we decayed beyond help?

About the time I began to think the worst, two things brought me back with hope and thoughts of a long and prosperous future for this country. My grandfather once told me he always believed the crack in the Liberty Bell represented the fact that we are not, nor will we ever be, a perfect nation; but we continue to strive for that perfection. More importantly I am reminded of Matthew 12:33, "Either declare the tree good and its fruit good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit." This country has a much longer track record of good things over bad and these good things will long outlive the Liberty tree, while still representing what the tree stands for. Like my children and the children before them that used the tree in our yard, they too are good and will carry the memory of the fun they had for many years beyond the life of the tree.

I declare both trees good and their fruit good. It is important to remember the trees are gone but the good fruit they leave behind bear the seeds of tomorrow.


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