Happy Fourth of July. America’s Independence Day. A day when we commemorate the 56 men who signed a document that, if they had lost the Revolutionary War, would have made them traitors and gotten them killed for their courage. While it was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, it was with the input of many others, and “lay on the table” for two days while Congress edited it and cut it down by roughly 25%. This document is, in my opinion, 0ne of the most eloquent documents in the history of documents. You can read the story of how it came to be written on the National Archives Website.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
It goes on from there to list their grievances against the British Government and it’s king.
The official signing ceremony was on August 2, 1776. Some of those who voted on July 4 to present the Declaration never actually signed it, either because they still wanted reconciliation with Great Britain or because they thought the presentation was premature.
The first signer of our declaration, John Hancock, signed his name exceptionally large, because he knew that King George III had poor eyesight and he wanted to make sure the King saw his name there. Now that took guts. For the record, the last signature was that of Thomas McKean of Delaware in November of 1781, over five years later.
While many states and localities would get together to commemorate the signing starting as early as 1777, reading the document out loud in the town square and following with a community picnic, our Independence Day holiday was not a federal holiday until 1870.
We now celebrate with parades, picnics and cook-outs, and fireworks (originally shot off in conjunction with our celebrations to recreate the “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”).
I didn’t get to go to a parade this year, but I have some great pictures of a past parade in my tiny hometown in North Georgia and I thought I would share them in the spirit of the day.
My son is out of town with his dad today. I am alone. I am sitting outside in 76 degree weather, brilliant blue skies, white wispy clouds, 15mps gusts of wind, and a peaceful mind. I am free to contemplate the blessings of living in the country I was raised loving. How did you spend your day? How did you remember our brave forefathers?
Let’s close this little post with a bit of trivia:
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (the first pick to draft the Declaration of Independence, who declined and suggested Jefferson) both signed it, both went on to become president of these United States, and both passed away on the 50th anniversary of it’s signing?