When I was in high school, one of my English teachers required that we memorize the Declaration of Independence word for word as well as put to memory some of the better-known patriotic songs, including the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. At the time, I had very little appreciation for this arduous task as she insisted that we know all the words to these things verbatim and we took turns attempting to recite each of these things in class. All these years later, I can still remember a lot of what I learned in Mrs. Peterson’s class however, and I credit her for making us learn these things. I can appreciate what she was trying to do far more now that I am a little older. To this day when I am at a baseball game or other event where the words to the Star Spangled Banner are sung and sadly sometimes completely massacred, it annoys me. There are some things that every American really should know. Obviously, the lyrics of the National Anthem are one of them. I think the words and the meaning behind the Declaration of Independence is another.
The Fourth of July obviously is a celebration of the United States’ Independence and its ultimate separation from England. What you may not realize, however, is why Independence Day is on July the 4th and how the Declaration of Independence plays into this patriotic holiday.
It may be hard for some of us to fathom, but imagine how it would feel to constantly be told what you could and couldn’t do by someone else who was in authority over you. Someone else would dictate your every decision; from where and how you could live to what you could and couldn’t wear. When you hear a scenario like this, if you are like me, you wax a little rebellious and think that no one has the right to tell us what we can and can’t do--after all, this is a free country! What you do need to remember, however, is that this was not always the case. Before the Declaration of Independence was written, the British government was always dictating its will to the original colonists. Unfair taxes were put upon them and Great Britain did indeed try to throw their weight around a lot and tried to tell the colonists how they should be living. The colonists were justifiably angry and didn’t want to be under the rule of Great Britain any longer. They wanted their own government and their own set of laws.
In 1776, the Continental Congress got together in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and appointed a committee of five men who were assigned to write the document that would eventually be known as the Declaration of Independence. These five men were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Thomas Jefferson wrote the bulk of the document, which was then edited afterward by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. The declaration was submitted to congress on June 28, 1776 and was officially adopted on July 4, 1776 when the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, infamously signed his name to it, followed by another 55 men who then signed it next. From this day forward, July the 4th was a day that would forever be marked in history, as this was the day the Declaration of Independence was put into effect by all the colonies. The United States had officially declared its freedom from England’s rule. In essence, on July the 4th, 1776, the free and independent United States of America was born.
There are many reasons to celebrate on the Fourth of July. Add to your list a nod of gratitude to the 56 men who signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well when they signed it that this act could be construed by the British King as treason, potentially costing them their lives. These brave men believed in a creator that intended for all men to be free. The Declaration of Independence laid an important foundation for the United States and put into place the groundwork for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, which would ultimately follow.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of our many freedoms, but it is also a celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which would ultimately change the course of history. The many unique liberties we enjoy today in the United States are because of these early patriots who believed in the concept of independence so strongly that they were willing to put their lives on the line to get it.
“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,…
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”