On the fourth of July there is plenty of pageantry and always a plethora of grilled and greasy items in our great nations backyards enough to fill up a small baseball stadium. However, in all of the pomp and circumstance, I hope we stand back and take a moment to reflect upon what the day is all about. I mean besides the twenty-two flavors of beer and barbecue sauce.
Two hundred and thirty six years ago on July 2nd, during the American Revolution, the original thirteen colonies separated from Great Britain when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence. Then the Committee of Five, Thomas Jefferson being its principal author, drafted what became known as the Declaration of Independence. Although it wasn’t actually approved until July 4th, John Adams penned a letter to his wife on July 3rd 1776 saying, “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever." Even though Mr. Adams was off by two days, his reflections of what would occur was right on the mark. America would celebrate from that year forward with games, sports, illuminations, and all things red white and blue.
Most of us learned or memorized, at some point in time, parts of the Declaration of Independence. For instance, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words are often quoted, but how many of the signatures can we remember of the 56 gentlemen who signed it? Of course we all remember John Hancock, because of his large and clear print, whose name has since become synonymous for signature. But did you know Edward Rutledge was the youngest signer at age 26, Benjamin Franklin at 70 was the oldest, and John Adams and Thomas Jefferson would be future presidents? Do we remember that by signing this document they, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and the other founding fathers weren’t just signing some empty philosophical statement, they were signing their death warrant. It marked a point of no return, because by doing so it was considered an act of treason. Either the revolutionaries were going to gain their independence from England and create a new country, or they were going to lose the war and forfeit everything they owned, ruin their families, and be hanged. By placing their signature upon that document they were displaying their dedication to the cause of American independence and the ultimate disloyalty to King George the Third. Imagine the risks they were taking; imagine the bravery and fortitude of these men, and all of the colonists in 1776.
The Declaration of Independence is the United States of America’s birth certificate. It declares our commitment to freedom and nurtures the ideology’s that all men are created equal and desire freedom from their oppressors. Without those men back on July 4th, 1776 who were impelled to separate from Great Britain we would not be the land of the free as we know it today. Let’s try to remember them as we light the sparklers, and swallow down grandma’s potato salad, and be truly thankful that we can.