Happy 4th of July from Thee IC! A little patriotic history here to remember that our country’s freedom was not free. George Washington read the Declaration to his soldiers between battles during the war… let us be courageous like our founding fathers and fight for God, country, and family in our broken liberal world today.
From The Weekly Standard:
According to legend, John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence with a signature so large that the King of England could see it without his spectacles. That bit of bravado has long been a staple of American history classes. I must have heard it several times growing up, and even in college. Yet I never got the joke until many years later. To repudiate the king was an act of treason. Should Hancock have been caught, the signed Declaration would have been the first and only necessary piece of evidence in his treason trial. The extra-large signature was the exclamation point on the sentence.
Hancock’s signature is not the only legendary piece of gallows humor from the Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin famously said that “we must all hang together or surely we shall all hang separately.” Less well known is the, probably apocryphal, story of Benjamin Harrison, a big burly Virginian, turning to Elbridge Gerry, a pipsqueak of a man from Massachusetts and saying, “I will have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.”
As we celebrate this, the two hundred fortieth anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence, it is worth remembering and paying honor to our ancestors who risked “their lives, fortunes, and their sacred honor” for the liberty of our country. We sometimes get carried away with the poetry and the philosophy of the Declaration and fail to remember this, most direct element of its meaning.
The Declaration was a war document. It was not a declaration of war—the British were at that very date amassing troops outside New York City, and the Americans were uniting for battle—declaring independence would help win the war, largely by making foreign recognition more likely but also by further uniting the former colonists. As John Adams wrote Abigail at the time, ” 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 he remained hopeful: “…through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.” Not every nation recognizes that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” But those rights come at a cost. In fighting for them we became worthy of them.
Adams had been the leader of the pro-independence forces in Congress. John Dickinson was the leading voice against ceclaring independence. Yet he was also an American. In the 1760s, he penned the “Liberty Song” which the patriots sung at their gatherings in the years up to 1776, probably the source of the slogan “United we stand.” Having lost the vote, he soon was in the field, commanding a battalion of troops in New Jersey.
At that very moment, General Washington was getting his troops ready to fight what would be the Battle of New York. The British had sent to America the largest expeditionary force ever sent to America, and had begun landing as the Declaration was being debated in Congress. Was New York worth defending? More importantly, could it be defended with such troops as Washington had? Britannia ruled the waves, and New York is one of the world’s great natural harbors, not to mention that the East River and the Hudson gave the British easy access to the city. Yet New York was the last colony on board with independence. It was still very divided. To surrender the city without a fight would risk alienating the state. On the other hand, a humiliating loss in New York would not exactly help the cause. In the event, Washington took the gamble. He lost, first in Brooklyn, and when the British took Manhattan, his army turned tail, rather than stand and fight. Thanks to some favorable weather and some providentially bad decisions by General Howe, Washington lived to fight another day. In the middle of battle planning, Washington had the Declaration read to the troops, to remind them of what they were fighting for, and to steel their resolve.
A few months later came the humiliating retreat across New Jersey into Pennsylvania, and the “times that try men’s souls.” Washington’s desperate gamble across the Delaware paid off, saving the cause. The code word for that campaign? “Victory or death.” More than just words, as Washington well knew.Thomas Jefferson captured some of the fighting spirit of the Declaration in his draft. The peroration read:
At this very time too they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to invade & destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. We must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
On July 4, 1826, as Jefferson lay dying, Americans listened to his “last letter.” Jefferson reminded Americans to honor that “host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword.” The “host of worthies” put their necks on the line for our liberty. By honoring them on this day, we show our own worthiness as inheritors of the cause for which they risked all.
Richard Samuelson is associate professor of history at California State University, San Bernardino, and a fellow at the Claremont Institute.