A nation born of freedom
Tomorrow, July 2, marks a pivotal point in our nation's history. It was 233 years ago that the General Congress met behind closed doors in Philadelphia and began to discuss what John Adams described as “the greatest question ever debated in America, and as great as ever was or will be debated among men.”
The question was whether to adopt the resolution of Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, which read, “Resolve: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”
Twelve of the 13 colonies adopted the measure, with New York not voting. Immediately upon its passage, Congress began to consider a statement submitted by the Committee of Five, which included John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. The statement would present to the world the colonies' case for independence. We know that document as the Declaration of Independence.
“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 abolish it.”
For two more days, 56 honorable men, hard pressed by an abusive ruler, debated whether they should take the irreversible step of declaring their independence from that king. One can only imagine the uncertainty, the discussion of treason, and men realizing the consequence could be the gallows or the headman's ax.
John Hancock was the first to affix his signature.
“Let him double the price on my head, for this is my defiance,” said Hancock. “We must be unanimous. There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.”
“Yes,” said Benjamin Franklin. “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
On July 4, 56 men, who yearned for freedom — not only for themselves and their families, but for generation upon generations to come — took the bold step of signing the Declaration of Independence. They pledged their very lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, to give birth to a nation of freedom. Many of these men later lost all that they had. Yet not even one ever expressed bitterness or renounced their action as not worth the price.
Years later, John Adams' son, John Quincy Adams, described the significance of that day:
“It was the first solemn declaration, by a nation, of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the cornerstone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe. It demolished at a stroke the lawfulness of all governments founded upon conquest. It swept away all the rubbish of accumulated centuries of servitude. It announced in practical form to the world the transcendent truth of the inalienable sovereignty of the people.”
I am so grateful for the ability this weekend to celebrate with my family the birth of our free nation.
John Adams said this event “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance… 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 forth forevermore.”
However you choose to celebrate, let us always honor these people who sacrificed all for our freedom.
Happy Independence Day!
EDITOR'S NOTE: State Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District, and also serves as chairman of the Washington House Republican Caucus. He can be contacted at (360) 786-7967 or from his Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.