In 1776 a handful of men met in Philadelphia to make one of the most controversial decisions in the history of the human race. In addressing their grievances and intentions to the King of Great Britain, the 13 states (colonies on the North America’s soil) would take an audacious step which would result in bloodshed and a break from the nefarious ways of the Old World.
Referring to the King as “Tyrant” and “unfit to be the ruler of a free people” , they stated unequivocally,
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.”
Fifty-six representatives from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Connecticut signed the document in August. The document was the Declaration of Independence, the birth certificate of a new republic which would become the great American experiment.
Thomas Jefferson was the main author, borrowing heavily from the British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704). Assisting Mr. Jefferson was Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert L. Livingston.
Less than a hundred years later, a war-worn President would deliver a short speech on the most bloody battlefield of the nation in the midst of a civil war. It was November 19, 1863 Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” President Abraham Lincoln
As you and your family go about the day’s activities ( apple pie, baseball, barbecue, parades, fireworks, etc ) take a few moments to reflect how much it took—“the last full measure of devotion”—for you to enjoy this day. Remember that those brave people who forged a new nation and who held a nation together were willing to engage in a costly endeavor of human sacrifice and dedication to ideals beyond the normal realm of life on this planet traversing the cosmos.
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people.
We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
Happy Fourth of July. Ronald Reagan President of the United States
Parade Magazine June 1981
Enjoy your day! Appreciate your birthright. Value your heritage.
“Loss of freedom seldom happens overnight. Oppression doesn’t stand on the doorstep with toothbrush moustache and swastika armband—it creeps up insidiously … step by step, and all of a sudden the unfortunate citizen realizes that it is gone.” Baron Lane, Lord Chief Justice of England
G. D. Williams © 2012
The Gettysburg Address: The Bliss Copy