Constitution, History, Holidays, Patriotic, Presidents

Reflections on Our Great Country

Click to see original imageAs we mark Independence Day 1984, let take a few minutes to reflect on what happened July 1, 1776 – also on some other dates and events significant in America’s birth of freedom.

On the Fourth, the Continental (Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence at Philadelphia. (The building in which the lawmakers sat received the name Independence Hall.)

Appropriately, the old Liberty Bell which rang July 8 in celebration of the Declaration, bears the inscription, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus xxv, 10).

The bell is said to have been cracked July 8, 1835 while being tolled at the death of John Marshall, who had been US chief justice since 1801.

What about the signing of the Declaration? Historian Allen C. Thomas said the original copy was signed only by John Hancock, president of the Congress, and Charles Thomson, secretary.

The official copy engrossed on parchment – preserved in Washington D. C. – was signed by most members of Congress Aug. 2. Some signatures came still later.

During the signing, Hancock reportedly said, “We must be unanimous; there must be no pulling different ways; we must hang together.”

That’s when sage old Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have made this classic comment. “Yes, we must all hang together or else we all shall hang separately.”

The 56 signers were well aware of their personal risks. History tells of severe harassments and losses inflicted on many of them.

We don’t hear a great deal about July 2 in the story of Americas independence unless we delve into history books. Actually this date rivals July 4 in importance.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia had introduced in Congress a resolution 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 …”

In an historic vote July 2, every state except one sustained Lee’s resolution. (New York’s support came later.) This set the stage for passage of the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth. Preparation of the latter document had been entrusted to a committee of five but was largely the work of Thomas Jefferson.

John Adams who had seconded Lee’s resolution, obviously considered approval of that proposition a monumental stepping stone toward independence. In a letter to his wife Abigail on July 3 he said annual celebrations “from this time forward forever” should be held to keep alive the Spirit of ’76.

The desire for freedom from British rule had been strong – but not unanimous by any means – in the colonies for years. Parliament’s “five intolerable acts” of 1774 put the question in crisis stage.

Tensions led to armed clashes when British troops set out from Boston for Lexington intending to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock for treason and to seize military stores at Concord.

The colonists were tipped off by Paul Revere on his midnight ride and the “minute-men” were waiting when the British arrived the morning of April 19, 1775.

The Lexington-Concord “shot heard round the world” put matters on a war footing. On May 10, 1775 the Second Continental Congress accepted the army of minute-men around Boston as the Continental army, and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief. The “battle of Bunker Hill” (actually Breed’s Hill) already had taken place when Washington arrived at Cambridge July 3 to take command.

The Declaration of Independence a year later cemented American resolve, but the freedoms we now commemorate still had to be secured in the long arduous Revolutionary War.

Perhaps John Adams was more accurate than we knew at the time in his letter to Abigail on the eve of the Declaration of Independence when he said:

”I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means …”