Fireworks, parades, and barbeques come to mind when we think of the 4th of July. But what are we celebrating?
John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776 that “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” While Adams missed the date that this nation celebrates its independence, Adams correctly anticipated the actual celebration and the lasting importance of our declaration of independence from Great Britain.
When our founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain, we must understand that not everyone in the colonies was for separation. America had been a colony of Great Britain for over a hundred years. There were many men who owed their fortunes to Great Britain. By declaring war on Great Britain, they were declaring war on their own finances and many were declaring war on their relatives back in their homeland. It was not an easy decision.
Delegation after delegation had been sent to Great Britain to reason with the king. The colonies were growing frustrated by Great Britain’s dominance over their lives and over their freedoms. Eventually the colonies could not stand the tyranny of the British control and colony after colony requested that their delegates to the Continental Congress vote for independence.
On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare independence. The Continental Congress then debated over the final language of the declaration and on July 4, 1776 the announcement was made that colonies were Independent.
The Declaration of Independence has some great language that we all love to recite. Lines like “all men are created equal,” “consent of the governed”, and “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” However, less well-known are all the reasons why the colonies were separating. Many are quick to say that the colonies separated because of taxation without representation. However, that is just one of many reasons given.
Our founding fathers made a long list of grievances. As you study the list of reasons, it is clear the founding fathers were furious with how the king was interfering with the liberties of the colonies. The founding fathers were tired of how the king was imposing his will on the people contrary to the wishes of the people. In other words, the king knew what was best and the colonies needed to learn how to deal with it. The law was the law.
We need to remember that while the Continental Congress was voting on whether to declare independence, General George Washington was already in the field with his army. Great Britain had been sending armies to the colonies. On July 2, 1776, the same day that the Continental Congress voted for independence, George Washington, not knowing what had just happened in Philadelphia, told his men “The time, is now near at hand, which must determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves …” George Washington went on to say that “the fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”
This Independence Day, I am going to remember that freedom is not free and there are many who have laid down their lives so that we can enjoy our freedoms. It is because Americans have been willing to fight for its freedoms that we can enjoy fireworks, parades, and the barbecues today.