Good day to all of you.
I hope you’re having a truly splendid day on this our nation’s 242nd year of Independence. Although, if one wanted to be technical the declaration of separation from England does not mark the true date of won independence. It was the Peace of Paris Treaty, signed 235 years ago on September 3rd 1783, that officially ended the War for Independence. I suppose with the 4th a national holiday, we’ll not get into semantics but simply enjoy the celebrate the first official declaration of our nation as an American union and remember a hard-won Independence.
I don’t know about you, but I am sometimes surprised by how little the average citizen knows about American history. If you’ve watched those impromptu clips from news station who send reporters out to ask everyday Americans what a holiday, such as Memorial Day or The 4th of July, stand for, then you understand. (For an example, follow this link.) So, in recognition of all modern-day Americans—whether by birth or immigration—and those passed as well, here’s a little history lesson on the Declaration of Independence and the 4th of July.
The Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson with the purpose of announcing to the King and Parliament that the American Colonies were seceding English Rule. The Declaration was approved by the Continental Congress on July 4th 1776 and signed by fifty-six men in the following months (there is debate among historians regarding the actual signing date.) The Declaration was a statement of secession, not a manual for how to run the Union as communicated by James McClennan in his book “Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government,” when he said:
“The Declaration offers little guidance on how or in what ways government ought to be built and provides little insight into the workings of the American constitutional system. The Declaration, after all, was a proclamation calling for independence, stating the grounds for separation, not a manual or design for a new political system.” (2000. Pg. 137.)
The Declaration began with an explanation for the separation. The colonists believed they had no choice except to separate themselves, and they listed grievances against the crown as foundation for secession. (85 years later several American states issued proclamations of secession in a similar fashion when they seceded from the Union at the start of the Civil War.)
The purposes of the Declaration and Constitution hinge on the desire for liberty, the betterment of American life, and an assertion of action. The Declaration states, “…all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” (1775.) The Declaration was the start of freedom and liberty in our nation, something not won at the end of the War for Independence as we’ve struggled against hatred and oppression among our people since the start of this country. While Liberty may have taken root in 1776 and struggled to grow in varied social-soil of the past years, we are tomorrow’s soil. Let’s produce better fruit for America’s tomorrow and rejoice in the positive history of our past while never forgetting mistakes for fear of repeating them.
While I try not to be too serious on holidays, this article turned out to be rather heavy. Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little history lesson. As always, history helps me to treasure the now and hope for the future. I hope you feel the same way.
Be blessed and have a wonderful 4th of July!
NOTE: Today’s blog is taken from an essay I wrote for a government course at Liberty University. You may view my complete essay in PDF form here GOVT200_Comparison_Paper_KWoodley.
To read the Declaration of Independence follow this link to the National Archives.
Interesting facts about the 4th of July.
• Fifty-six men signed the Declaration while thirty-nine sighed the Constitution.
• The Declaration was first signed on July 2nd by Charles Thompson (the secretary of Congress) and John Hancock (the presiding officer).
• The first organized, elaborate celebration of independence occurred the following year on July 4, 1777, in Philadelphia.
• Fireworks were not a stable of the 4th of July celebration until the early 1800’s when American began producing their own pyrotechnics
• The Declaration spent the majority of WW2 at Fort Knox.
• There is something written on the back of the declaration but it’s not a treasure map as Nicolas Cage’s character (Ben Gates) claims in National Treasure. Rather the words, “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776”
• President John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe all died on July 4th. Adams and Jefferson (signers of the declaration) died within hours of each other in 1826.
Martin, G. R. (2006), Prevailing worldviews: Of the western society since 1500. Marion, Indiana: Triangle Publishing.
McClellan, J. (2000). Liberty, order, and justice: An introduction to the constitutional principles of American government (3rd ed.). Indianapolis, Indiana. Liberty Fund Ink.