While small town parades, backyard barbecues and fireworks displays may be what many people associate with the 4th of July, Independence Day deserves far greater respect. Fifty-six men signed a single piece of parchment on this day in 1776 that contained 1338 words that changed the history of the world for the better. That hallowed document claimed independence not only for a Nation but for a People. Unfortunately, 238 years later, we are in danger of surrendering to the temptation of dependence.
Our Founding Fathers were quite different from us. Some people like to mock them for the hypocrisy of their ways (i.e., “They were just a bunch of rich, old, racist white guys who said ‘all men are created equal’ but owned slaves”). Try to ignore the irony that such criticism itself has ageist, racist overtones and displays a relatively benighted sense of historical context (given that the Founding Fathers were not all rich or old nor did they all own slaves or support such conduct).
These men had the courage to stand up to the greatest military power on the face of the Earth to establish even the possibility of the individual independence we now enjoy. The depth of their commitment can be seen in the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
In their case, the “pledge” of their “Lives” and “Fortunes” was not rhetorical. They were, in fact, risking their “Lives” and their “Fortunes” against enormous odds. Other than those who have served our Nation in armed combat, who else among us can even come close to making that claim?
“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen States of America,” in effect, brought a 27-count indictment against King George, III. It specifically stated how the King had:
- Precluded the colonies from administering an effective form of self-governance;
- Interfered with the establishment of a fair judicial system;
- Acted independently to create or delay legislation that negatively impacted the colonies;
- Failed to protect the borders in a manner that left the colonies subject to invasions that could result in the loss of life and property;
- Obstructed justice;
- Manipulated the judiciary;
- Created a “Multitude of new Offices… to harrass (sic) our People;”
- “Kept… Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures;”
- Quartered troops among the citizens and protected them from prosecution;
- Interfered with world trade;
- Imposed taxes without consent;
- Denied the benefit of “Trial by Jury;”