This past Friday was the fourth of July. Virtually everyone I know celebrated some way, whether it was going to the beach or enjoying a picnic, and/or fireworks. Many had flags out. All knew we were celebrating our nation. But very, very few of them knew exactly what we were celebrating. Some, accurately, remembered that it’s called Independence Day; a few tied that to the Declaration of Independence. Virtually none knew that it was on 4 July 1776 that Congress passed the Declaration of Independence—thus, it’s our nation’s birthday. Isn’t it a terrible shame that our citizens don’t know this—that our schools don’t teach it—that our culture only sees it as a holiday?
Specifically, on 4 July 1776, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king. The declaration came 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
The declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York, the 13th colony, approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed. 4 July is our nation’s birthday.
I think that this indifference and ignorance about this day is an insult to the brave men and women who stood up against British tyranny, put their lives, their families’ lives, their fortunes on the line to gain the freedoms that we now enjoy? Many, many of these men and their families did lose all in the Revolutionary War that followed. These heroes declared war on Britain—the strongest military force in the world; one that had an army in North America and a big fleet off our coast. We had neither a nation, nor an army, nor a navy—nothing but a desire for freedom—and a lot of courage.
The men who wrote the Declaration of Independence—and the Constitution—were rich white guys. They had all the power there was to have in our country, yet they wrote our founding documents that did not preserve for them the power and privilege they had. This was and is without precedent in the history of the world.
The declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal. Now the culture of the day didn’t treat all men as equals, but that was in violation of our founding documents—and eventually we got there. It goes on to say that we were all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Note, first, our rights come from our Creator—that’s God. The state didn’t give them to us, and the state can’t take them away. Most of the power brokers in Washington should read that part again, because they’re daily finding way to take away our rights.
Among these God-given rights are, first, life. If you’re not alive, nothing else really matters. Then liberty—we are free people, able to live our lives without another’s permission. And then the pursuit of happiness—we are each free to pursue our dreams; note that we’re not guaranteed success in that pursuit; as free people we are responsible to provide for ourselves and to support our government. As adults we are responsible for our own actions and for the consequences of our actions.
The declaration then goes on to state the grievances we have with the British Crown and the unsuccessful attempts to resolve them.
I encourage you to make the knowledge of our nation’s history a part of your family’s practice and culture—so our next generations will remember and honor our history and culture.
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