As we gather together today for the Fourth of July parties we all enjoy so much, I sincerely hope we all take a moment to appreciate the historical significance of this great day in the history of the world. Here’s a list of some of the people who made this celebration possible…Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, Robert Paine, Elbridge Gerry, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, and Matthew Thornton.
How many of us recognized those names as some of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence? I left out the famous ones we all know because I wanted to make a larger point about American history. The men I listed weren’t famous then and they’re not famous now but they made the same sacrifice as John Hancock, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.
There were fifty-six men who represented the thirteen colonies who all agreed to attach their names to a document that effectively declared war on Great Britain and King George III. Here’s an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence that lists all the grievances the colonists had with the King.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
When you read these charges you have to remember King George III was one of the most powerful people in the whole world at the time. No one had ever brought charges against the King, and lived to talk about it, before 1776. When this same document got printed in England how do you suppose he reacted to fifty-six colonists calling him a tyrant? His reaction was completely tyrannical because he sent more mercenaries to quell the rebellion. Every grievance they had became much worse and they all became enemies of the crown. These were ordinary people who risked everything they had to create something so extraordinary that it changed the world forever.
Tyranny was and still is a real threat for most of humanity. Since none of us alive today, who were born in the US of A, have ever experienced real tyranny it’s easy to forget the sacrifices the founders made on our behalf. The Declaration of Independence followed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation are the two most important statements about the rights of humanity ever recorded and both of them are the product of the American people. That’s our legacy for all of human history and, I would argue, the greatest achievements of mankind ever. America gave the world liberty and the unfettered opportunity to rise above the darkness of despotism. Lincoln gave this testament to the value of the Declaration of Independence… “I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in ‘certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.”
I’m proud to be an American and I always will be because freedom is worth everything I have to give. I would rather be dead than give in to tyranny and I suspect that most Americans feel the same way. The fact that so many people are trying to come here is all the proof I need to believe that we are the greatest country on Earth and as long as we hold on to the same values declared by the founders we will overcome any obstacles that come our way. America will never be perfect but it’s a damn sight better than any other place on Earth because we keep trying to make it better. Freedom isn’t easy, liberty takes all we’ve got and a true democracy requires everyone to pull their own weight. The founders laid the foundation and we just have to keep building on it.
So please, by all means, enjoy the Fourth of July with your family and friends. It is the most significant day in American history and the day that changed the whole world for eternity. It doesn’t get any better than that. And just remember, even ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.