Independence Day 2012
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Those were more than just words, for when the founders affixed their names under those words they did exactly what those words said; they pledged their lives, fortunes, and honor towards the founding of a new nation and a cause that they believed so firmly in that they were willing to die for it.
Independence was declared on that day with the words: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levey war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.” But independence was not yet won.
There would be many years of conflict to follow, there would be more defeats than victories before the war ended, but in the end victory was achieved and a new nation was born.
The war had been raging on for over a year when the Declaration was signed, but up until July 4th 1776 America was in a war which was being fought to reestablish her natural born rights as Englishmen, it was not a war for independence. This document changed that and henceforth this was a war of separation.
While people such as Samuel Adams were clamoring for independence, and while George Washington secretly hoped that America would declare its independence as he was leading the Continental Army against the British, it was a pamphlet called “Common Sense” which was written by Thomas Paine that finally convinced many of the founders and citizens of America that independence was not only justifiable, but was also proper.
Thomas Paine was the first person to actually set down in words the reasoning for American independence, and why it was a noble and worthy cause; and he is credited as the first person to actually brand this nation the “United States of America.”
When the founders signed this document they became traitors to the Crown and if captured they would have been hanged as such– losing all three pledges they had sworn to each other. They all understood this and were willing to pay the price as Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
While they never had to pay the ultimate price for the freedom they have given us–an estimated 25,000 men did, fighting for the cause they believed in–many of them did end up bankrupt or near bankrupt and in debt. So when they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor there was no turning back. Many of them may have lost their fortunes, but they never lost their honor.
Now it was up to the Continental Army to deliver us the freedom the Declaration rightfully claimed belonged to Americans. The battle went on for many years and it wasn’t until October 19th in 1781 at Yorktown that General Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army to General Washington by sending his second in command to surrender his sword instead of doing it himself as was considered proper in the day–a slight that George Washington was offended by and never forgave–hat hostilities ended and a year later the Treaty of Paris was signed and independence was official.
But none of those events would have happened if it wasn’t for the Declaration that was signed on this day in 1776 and so today we celebrate the birth of the greatest nation in the history of the world. ”It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
I hope that everyone enjoys their Fourth of July. Let the fireworks and the grilling begin! Please take a little time during this Fourth of July holiday to think about the men and women who are serving this country today– as well as all of those in the past– who have dedicated their lives to ensure that the vision of our founders remains intact and that a ”government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I am sharing with you two videos this year: The first is a video of Patrick Henry’s infamous “Liberty or Death” speech and the second is the scene from the HBO mini-series “John Adams” when the Declaration is adopted.