The History Files
On July 4, 1776, it was an unusually mild, mid-summer day in Philadelphia. Thanks to Thomas Jefferson’s detailed weather journals we know that the temperature was a pleasant 76 degrees at 1:00 PM, a normally hot and humid time of the year.
What seemed to be a pleasant day was far from it. This summer was raging with a full scale war that began at Lexington and Concord, MA, with “the shot heard around the world”. In April of 1775, when the British marched to Concord to seize arms, Paul Revere and others rode to sound the alarm, but with that shot The Revolutionary War had begun.
The Brits, over spent securing new territories in the new world for the Crown, and in particular, The French and Indian War of 1754-1763. This war, between France and Great Britian in North America was for control of the colonial territory. Great Britian having “won” the war, now looked to recoup their finincial losses by taxing their 13 colonies.
The Stamp Act, Townsend Act, Tea Act, (to name a few) were met with colonial protest, due to lack of representation in Parliament (in England). In responses to the grievences, George Washington, John and Sam Adams, Patrick Henry, John Jay along with others met in Philadelphia in September of 1774 to give voice to their grievences and denounce the taxation and quartering of troops without consent. They issued a declaration that included the statement that the rights due to every citizen include life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury. They voted to meet again in May of 1775.
Battles were fought, lives were lost, properties were seized and taxes continued through the ensuing months.
In May of 1775, when this body met again, The Second Continental Congress, they voted to form a Continental Army and appointed George Washington Commander. Included in this second meeting were the notable Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
The month following Washington’s appointment, the Congress issued “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms”. Congress sent this along with an olive branch to King George III asking him for help in resolving their differences. Needless to say, the request was ignored.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle for the colonial forces, and they inflicted heavy losses on the Brits. Although it ended in a British victory, it encouraged the cause for revolt. The colonists were being stirred by writers too, like Thomas Paine, who were writing pamphlets like “Common Sense”. In it reasons are listed for the need to separate from Britian – it was only common sense! From this, the population developed a convincing arguement for independence.
In the spring of 1776 requests were being made of congress to draft a declaration of independence. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee complied. Congress postponed the final vote until July 1 and appointed a 5 man committee to draft the final document. It consisted of Benjamin Franklin and John Adams but the document was mainly the work of Thomas Jefferson.
In it he included the natural rights of all people and charged the Parliament and the King of depriving the Americans of these God given rights. He also included an article on the institution of slavery, which was later removed.
On July 2,1776, Congress voted in favor of independence, and 2 days later, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence. Congress then ordered it to be sent to the printer where 200 copies were made. Today, 26 copies remain.
John Hancock was the first and largest signer, he said, he wanted the King to be able to read his name clearly. (Amazing, because he was committing treason). Following John Hancock, another 55 brave men signed their treasnous document of independence.
The Declaration was sent to various battle fronts, where it was read to the troops. Additionally it was read in large cities and hamlets throughout the colonies. When George Washington read it to the troops in New York, a riot broke out, tearing down a statue of George II. The statue didn’t go to waste tho’, it was melted down and made into 42,000 musket balls.
This is where we, in this modern day stop thinking. Independence! Yay! We’re free. Not so fast, tho’.
This day, marked a line in the sand for the colonists. They were now at war with the most powerful empire of the day! Their lives, homes, possessions, families, reputations, and yes, their sacred honor were at stake.
Consider just the signers of that declaration:
- 5 were captured, tortured as traitors before they died
- 12 had their homes ransaked and burned
- 2 lost their sons in the war fight
- 2 others had their sons captured
- 9 of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war
These were ordinary men living in an extraordinary time demonstrating unbelievable courage and passion for what they believed in. OUR FREEDOM!
They were lawyers, merchants, farmers, plantation owners and men of means and education, but they signed the Declaration knowing full well their lives were on the line. They had security, but they valued liberty more.
The Revolutionary War waged on through ebb and flow, losses and gains, setbacks, traitors, and British occupation until Great Britian formally surrendered on September 3, 1783, in what is known as The Treaty of Paris.
American Battlefield Trust estimates that during The Revolutionary War 6,800 Americans were killed in action, 6,100 wounded and more that 20,000 taken prisoner. Add to those the deaths due to disease, or who died while prisoners of war another 8,000-12,000.
On June 14, 1777, during this war, Congress approved the design of the national flag. It’s red, white and blue forever speak of those who fought for it, even before it came into existence. Those who in purity stood up for independence with bravery and courage, paying unmentionable valor and spilling immeasurable blood, those who united as 13 independent colonies with a cause against tyranny, injustice and freedom for all.
Don’t allow anyone to tarnish or dampen the cost and value of that freedom, or to shame you for your patriotism.
This is the history of The United States of America and we can stand tall, proud and very partiotic.
Happy 245th birthday, America.