Posted 6/30/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
From the Declaration of Independence
With that powerful introduction to the Declaration of Independence, 239 years ago, America began its road to freedom from Great Britain. This year, on July 4th, we as citizens of the United States will celebrate the heroic stand that those 56 patriots took as they gathered in Philadelphia to represent the 13 colonies and to consider the case for independence.
Of the 56, 14 represented the New England Colonies, 21 represented the Middle Colonies and 21 represented the Southern Colonies. The largest number, 9, came from Pennsylvania. Most of the signers were American-born although eight were foreign-born. The ages of the signers ranged from 26 (Edward Rutledge) to 70 (Benjamin Franklin), but the majority of the signers were in their 30s or 40s. More than half of the signers were lawyers and the others were planters, merchants and shippers. Together they mutually pledged “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
They were mostly men of means who had much to lose if the war for freedom from Britain was lost. History tells us that none of the signers died at the hands of the British, and that one-third served as militia officers during the war. Four of the signers were taken captive during the war, and that nearly all of them were poorer at the end of the war than at the beginning. No matter what each of these men did after July 1776, the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence, which began on Aug. 2, ensured them instant immortality.
In its 239 years of existence as a nation, the United States of America has had its share of turmoil. And today, many of those issues which have plagued us for generations still haunt America. And we continue to face new challenges each and every day that will define who we are both as a country and as a society.
But what has not changed over the course of America’s history is the belief in, and the promise of, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These tenants put forth by the signers of the Declaration of Independence have been, and will continue to be the guiding light for Americans and a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.
So this 4th of July as you celebrate our nation’s independence with fireworks, parades, barbecues and family gatherings, take time to give thanks to those patriots and countrymen who set us on the course to be the greatest country in the world.