Posting here will be light to nonexistent tomorrow and Wednesday because of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the Exodus from slavery to freedom. The New York Times reports that Michelle Obama's chief of staff is speculating that "taking care of people who can't take care of themselves and health care reform" may be themes at this year's White House Passover seder. My own take on the Exodus story and freedom has been as it relates to Samuel Adams, the founding father I wrote a biography of:
Again and again, both subtly and directly, Adams placed the American colonists in the role of the Israelites fleeing slavery in Egypt and likened the British to the oppressive Egyptians.
Writing in the Boston Gazette on Aug. 8, 1768, Adams referred to the British as "taskmasters," a term the Bible uses to describe the Egyptians. Earlier, he had referred to the Stamp Act as "a very grievous & we apprehend unconstitutional tax," echoing the language Exodus uses to describe the "very grievous" hail, cattle disease and locust plagues.
From Philadelphia, Adams wrote home to Massachusetts that the heart of the British King, George III, "is more obdurate, and his Disposition towards the People of America is more unrelenting and malignant than was that of Pharaoh towards the Israelites in Egypt." In a speech to his fellow members of the Continental Congress, Adams is said to have credited God with providing the Americans a "cloud by day and pillar of fire by night," which had, according to the Bible, also guided the Israelites in the wilderness after Egypt.
In a private letter on Dec. 26, 1775, Adams wrote of the people of Massachusetts, "Certainly the People do not already hanker after the Onions & the Garlick!" It was a reference to Numbers 11:5, which recounts the restless Israelites in the desert, complaining to Moses about the manna, and recalling wistfully the food back in Egypt -- fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.
As Samuel Adams realized, dependence on government masters, whether they are Egyptian kings or British ones, can be tempting, whether the temptation is garlic and onions or new energy efficient windows for your house. Freedom isn't always as materially comfortable as slavery. But it has other virtues.