Yes, we set off fireworks and celebrate the Fourth of July each year but many soon lose the thought and become immersed in their everyday life of ease. We think of The American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence as that of another world. I mean, how could we, in this plush, “Do-as-you-please” world we call America, relate to tyranny, oppression, hard times and being subjects of some other country across the ocean?
When we celebrate The Fourth of July, we celebrate America’s Declaration of Independence, not the winning of the war which took many years beyond 1776 to achieve. Even The Declaration of Independence was many moons in the making. It was proposed in The Continental Congress, voted upon, written, proof-read, revised, and signed. This didn’t all happen on The Fourth of July.
The shakers and movers that suggested, formulated, and signed this piece of parchment were in it for the long haul. The Representatives of The Colonies were spread out from Maine to Georgia and King George had confiscated all their iphones and laptops so they had to communicate the old-fashioned way of “being there.” They had to travel the East Coast by horseback to attend conversation and signings at Congressional meetings in Philadelphia. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight either.
Safety wasn’t a luxury for the signers either. Some were common working merchants but some were wealthy subjects of the Colony, appointed by the Crown. No matter who you were, if you signed this rebellious paper you would surely be sought out for treason and hanged by the Redcoats.
It was Ben Franklin who is quoted as saying, “We must all hang together, gentlemen, or else we shall most assuredly hang separately.”
As dynamic and eventful as the Declaration of Independence is, it’s amazing how little we know about it.
We celebrate it on July Fourth but on that day, it was officially adopted and two men signed it. John Hancock, President of Congress and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress, signed on July Fourth and 200 copies were distributed throughout the thirteen new states.
July Fourth was the date of adoption, not the date of the majority of the signings. It was August 2, 1776 when the majority signed the declaration. Congress, being a little shifty, even back then, back-dated them to July 4, 1776 and that’s the way we celebrate it today. Some were present, some had been and were off to war. One guy didn’t get to sign until 1781.
As Tom would say, “In the course of human events it becomes necessary…” to establish a timeline to appreciate 1776 to 1781.
1774 – The “Intolerance Acts” were initiated by Parliament upon the American colonists.
1775 – Revere rides and “The shots were heard around the world” when fired at Lexington and Concord.
1776 – Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposes separation, Congress votes, it passes, and the Declaration is written. That happened in June and in July, the Declaration is written, revised, two sign, and in August, most sign. By December, Washington has taken the Hessians in Trenton, after crossing the Delaware. (Quite a year.)
1777 – The Articles of Confederation\
1781 – Cornwallis surrenders to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia (This is a great visit. I would certainly recommend to anyone a visit to the “Surrender Field” at Yorktown.)
This span of time (1776-1781) was certainly eventful to the Americans then and it should be remembered today, that this is why the signers of the Declaration of Independence took from 1776- 1781 to get it signed. They had a war to win.
It should also be remembered that it took an amazing and uncommon amount of intestinal fortitude to take on the greatest army and navy in the world with rag tag military. Our winning was a sure bet not to happen but against all odds, it started with a Declaration of Independence.
“Live Free or Die” is the New Hampshire state motto and it must have been the motto for the Continental Army as well. They and the signers of The Declaration Of Independence risked life and livelihood for that cause. This is a cause that most of us in modern day America can’t really appreciate. We say we do and we celebrate The Fourth of July but how many of us have lived in oppression or tyranny and how many would risk loss of life and everything we own to fight it?
There will be more articles on just who these signers were and just what did or didn’t happen to them. It’s about the one thing King George didn’t count on – the Patriot element in the formula. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of fight in the dog.
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a six-part series discussing the impact of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.
Dudley Wooten is the owner/operator of Wooten’s Landscaping and Nursery and can be reached at 740-820-8210.