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Independence Day

Celebrating the Birth of the United States of America

By Alix Sydney

The 4th of July, or Independence Day, is a joy-filled day of celebration for Americans all across our nation, filled with parades, barbecues, family gatherings, and fireworks. Despite the many major changes that have occurred in our nation and culture, Independence Day still invokes feelings of patriotism and unity in the hearts of Americans, and brings forth emotions of pride and gratitude for our wonderful country, freedom, and way of life.

Independence Day celebrates the birth of the United States of America, which took place 248 years ago on July 4, 1776. On this day, the founding fathers of our great nation approved the Declaration of Independence, which officially declared America’s independence from Great Britain (Federer, W.). They represented 13 small colonies, all made up of hardworking, freedom-loving individuals from all walks of life (farmers, businessmen, lawyers, merchants, blacksmiths, etc.) that were willing to make a desperate stand for freedom against the most powerful nation and military in the world at the time. By making such a declaration, they were fully aware that they would be risking the wrath of a tyrannical, power-hungry monarch who would be certain to brand them as traitors, and seek to crush and destroy them for their actions.

So what was it that caused our founding fathers to take such a drastic step, especially in the face of such fearful retribution?

“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.”

~ Declaration of Independence

Our founding fathers recognized a timeless principle, namely, that each human being has been given certain inalienable rights by God (i.e. Life, Liberty, and Property), which no person or entity has the right to violate or take away. They also believed that it was the role of government to protect inalienable rights, and that if those rights were threatened or subverted (by government or any other entity), that they had both a God-given right and duty to defend them.

Several decades prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American colonies had been largely content to be under the authority of the English crown. That sentiment quickly changed after the French and Indian War (1754-1763), when the British government sought to pay off its war debts by levying numerous taxes upon the colonies, while at the same time they denied them the representation and voice in such decisions that their fellow Englishmen in their mother country enjoyed. Over the years that followed, the colonists loudly opposed these unlawful actions, but to their further dismay and outrage, their cries were met with still more tyrannical measures (Schweikart, Larry., & Allen, Michael).

Many Americans today are familiar with the phrase, “No taxation without representation.” In fact, for decades, Americans have been taught to believe that this was the main reason that the American colonies chose to separate from Great Britain. In actuality, it was only one of 27 grievances (number 17 to be exact) listed in the Declaration of Independence that were inflicted upon the colonists by King George III, each of which detail how the rights and freedoms of the colonists were violated and trampled upon. From the disruption and dismantling of lawful local colonial government, and forcing the colonists to quarter British troops, to cutting off the colonies from trade, conscripting the colonists into military service and forcing them to fight against their own countrymen, inciting Indian tribes against peaceful citizens, and the general devastation of the lives of the colonists through violence, plunder, and destruction of the British crown. In the years leading up to the Declaration of Independence, the colonists repeatedly petitioned Great Britain to right the wrongs committed against them, but they were only answered by still more tyranny and injustice.

The first shot of the American Revolutionary War (which became known as “The Shot heard ‘Round the World.”) was fired on April 19, 1775, at the Lexington green in Massachusetts, when General Gage ordered his troops to capture two of the leading figures of the “rebellion” (John Hancock and Samuel Adams) and seize the colonist’s weapons and munitions stored at Concord. They were met along their way at the town of Lexington by a small but determined group of Minute Men, resulting in a brief conflict that cost the lives of 8 of the Minute Men, and left many others badly wounded. The British then continued on to Concord, however, their rampage ultimately ended with the colonists, enraged by their heinous actions, successfully forcing them into retreat and driving them back to Boston (Wallbuilders) (Fisher, D.)(ABT).

The months that followed the battle of Lexington and Concord saw rapid changes in the colonies as the conflict with the British continued to escalate. In May, the colonial Continental Congress met to create the Continental Army, and appointed George Washington as supreme commander. The formation of the Continental Army was none too soon, for June 16 saw the American colonists and British army engaged in another major conflict which would become known as the Battle of Bunker Hill, during which the colonists attempted to bombard the British occupation of Boston, as well as their ships docked at the Boston Harbor. After a vicious and bloody struggle, the Americans, who had run out of ammunition, were forced to retreat. However, though victorious, the much larger British army had sustained heavy losses that left nearly half of their attacking force either dead or wounded (U.S.History.org).

In yet another attempt to resolve the situation with the British crown peacefully, the Continental Congress approved and sent a direct appeal in July to King George III called “The Olive Branch Petition.” In the appeal, the delegates of the Continental Congress pleaded with the King for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but instead of heeding their pleas, the King instead declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion, and hired German mercenary troops (called Hessians) to help crush their attempts to stand against his tyrannical actions (U.S.History.org).

“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

~ Declaration of Independence

At last, after exhausting every means of reconciliation at their disposal, the American colonists chose to take the decisive step of separation from their mother country to protect and preserve their freedom. The Declaration of Independence was drafted, deliberated upon, ratified and signed by 56 representatives from the 13 colonies. It was a monumental decision that would brand each of those involved as traitors to the British crown, and each of the signers fully realizing that even merely signing the Declaration of Independence could cost them everything, and potentially lead to their capture and execution. Despite this, they were all willing to pledge their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” to the cause of freedom, and sacrifice everything—even their lives—so that others (their fellow colonists, families, friends, children, and the generations to come) could have a chance to live in a free country.

In the 8 long years of war that followed, thousands of patriots, both old and young, went on to give their lives for the cause of freedom. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 17 lost their fortunes, 12 had their homes utterly destroyed, 9 died in battle, 5 were put under arrest as traitors, and 2 had sons that were killed in the war (Federer, W.).

Our forefathers were willing to risk everything to give us the blessed nation and freedoms that we have today. If it were not for their sacrifice, there would be no United States of America, no Declaration of Independence… no 4th of July. On this Independence Day, I would encourage everyone who reads this to take the time to read the Declaration of Independence, which birthed our nation, and take some time to reflect on the great sacrifice that was paid for our freedom. Most importantly, may each one of us do all within our power to ensure that this priceless gift that has been entrusted to us is passed on to the generations to come.

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it.”

~ John Adams

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