Updated on July 1, 2011
Tomorrow of course is July 4th, the day we celebrate American Independence. For some its a time to travel, watch fireworks, go to the lake, or just relax. Few really appreciate all that transpired some 232 years ago in Philadelphia. So of course you have me to remind you.
By July of 1776, the Thirteen Colonies had been at war with Great Britain for over a year. At the start of hostilities, there were still many that had hoped for a peaceful settlement of grievances with the mother country. Among the many issues were excessive taxation and lack of representation. Also, the tyranny of King George and Parliament who saw the colonies as assets to exploit instead of citizens with rights of the Empire.
When the Continental Congress convened, there were few left that believed there was any other alternative but to declare their independence. Thomas Jefferson was tasked with drafting the declaration. He borrowed liberally from many sources including the Bible and John Locke. Chief among these was the concept that all men were created equal and were given rights by God – not government. Government was organized by men and ruled by their consent. And when government turned to despotism, men had the right to change governments. These were pretty radical ideas in the age of monarchs.
The most precious of these God-given rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson pulled these from Locke who said, “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” Remember, in Europe the idea of private property was for the most part limited to the nobility at the whim of the monarch.
Jefferson went on to list the various charges against the king and lay out the case for why America was declaring its independence. One of my favorite charges in the document is:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
When I have visited Washington and seen the hundreds of thousands of government workers, redundant departments and excessive bureaucracy, I’ve always thought about this line and chuckle at what the Founding Fathers would think of what liberalism has and continues to do this great country. But back to the story.
Once the document was edited, the Congress gathered in Philadelphia and adopted it on July 4th. The adopted version was sent to the printers and later 56 people would sign their names, including John Hancock who signed it first in rather enormous letters. The moment these men signed their names they became traitors to Great Britain and most lost everything.
Here is an excerpt of a short essay on the lives of these Patriots. I encourage you to read the entire essay to really appreciate what these brave men endured for your freedom:
Lives, fortunes, honor Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact. — From Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor
There are still people out there who continue to attempt to take your life and freedoms away from you. Some try and do it by force and for the most part are external threats. Some do it by nice speeches and promises of “change.”
Freedom comes with a price of vigilance. We must always protect those rights that so many freedom-loving people have fought to protect. Whether the threat comes from terrorists in Iran, or liberals in Washington, always remember that once you lose your freedom, it might never be won back without a bloody fight.
Happy Independence Day!!
Originally posted July 2008.