From There to Here !

There is so much that can be written about our Independence Day a person could fill several hundred books if they had a lifetime to write them. I thought that perhaps I would sit down today and remind us a bit about the piece of paper that set the smoldering fire of a years’ worth of fighting against the British ablaze with the fuel that would create this country we call the United States of America. It is believed that the five-member committee of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston were in charge of creating what would become the Declaration of Independence. All five were well-read patriots and active in public life however Jefferson stood out even among this small group of men. Adams is said to have once remarked that Jefferson was not only a man of genius, but was known for his “peculiar felicity of expression.” The committee decided Jefferson should write the first draft, and they in turn would then make any revisions before presenting it to the Continental Congress.
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator 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 Foundations on such Principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of Government….”1
This statement followed by a listing of complaints along with a list of sufferance formed the final fuel for the fire that would be the beginning of this country. For surely you know that we the colonists were already fighting the British Government, over our disagreements. It is with this piece of paper that we as a group of Colonies stuck our neck out and took our destiny into our own hands. It has been said that King George was becoming sympathetic and was considering giving into many of our demands as Colonists, just not our final freedom. For that, we as colonists would need to pay a higher price. It is also told that in his diary King George wrote of 4 July 1776 that “nothing of importance happened this day.” Had he known the truth I wonder what he would have written.
I have heard it said that while the Continental Congress was in session the drink of choice was beer. Now you don’t suppose there was a time during any of this writing when our congress was more drunk than sober? Ah, what foolishness men have wrought whilst being under the influence. Perhaps you might believe that it was the drink that emboldened them to write such a declaration. Whatever the condition of these men were during its writing, it was with the adoption and signing of it that had taken them from mere politicians to being traitors to England and the Crown. It is true that even the original resolution from Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and agreed by all present on June 7th of that year would be enough to hang them for treasonous actions. But it is the signatures at the end of the declaration that had they been caught would be the ones to do the hanging. I ask you all that read this today do you believe that our elected officials of this day that could stand as they did? Could they stand against the acts of one government while beginning another? How many would stick their necks out as far as those that found this country? I say no, I say that if today we were facing the same as those in the late 1700’s I believe that we as a group of colonies would be destined to remain colonies. Yet from 1775, the time of the first continental congress, and a delegate from Virginia by the name of George Washington had come to meet in Philadelphia that our true destiny was already being written. Today the only thing that all of our elected Congressional members can agree on is when it is time to go home and how much of a pay raise they will receive. The first Continental Congress was to meet solely to use political means to get the Crown to change its mind toward its colonies. Instead, that first group of men ended up appointing George Washington to the lead a new colonial army. It may be added that perhaps the newly appointed General might not have been the best or even the right pick for the job, but that is not important here.
From this day so many years ago men and women have come to the call of their country, whenever and where ever they were needed. What is the call you ask, and why is it that so many today in the volunteer military answer it? Patriotism is something that comes from within and from without those that have it. From the shout of “The British are coming,” to “Give me liberty or Give me death” to “we need to stand together for surely we will all hang separately.” The struggle long bloody and at times seemingly impossible taken up by men and a few women from battle to battle not that they were to be found out but there were some. You see there have been men and women fighting for this country even before we were a country. The call of a country comes many ways but many hear it as Washington always heard it or should I say did not hear it. In his first Inaugural address then President Washington spoke of this voice, he said in part, “On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear….” This voice he would not hear many times over his lifetime and each time he rose to the call for good or ill he would come. I believe that it is the voice that calls out to us today. A voice that I believe made him whom we consider the father of our nation, even though without the words of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Sherman and Livingston and the rest of the signers of the Declaration of Independence that voice would not be for this the greatest nation on gods little blue planet.
While I still have your ear I want to tell you a little bit about some of those lesser known men that signed on the dotted line so to speak for the sake of our yet to be country. William Whipple was made Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia he lead his men against General Burgoyne at the battles of Stillwater and Saratoga. Lewis Morris of New York served as Brigadier General of the New York Militia and was often torn between his duties as an army officer and his commitment to the Congress. He inherited great wealth from his father of which all of his property and nearly all of his wealth were destroyed during the revolution. Carter Braxton of Virginia Loaned 10,000-pound, sterling to support the revolution while also sponsoring shipping and privateering and ending up in debt and in 1786 he was forced to leave his inherited estate. Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, Richard Stockton, were each captured and imprisoned by the British both Middleton and Rutledge were captured while serving their Colonies Militia. However, Richard Stockton was captured while returning from a fact finding mission of the northern army in November 1776. It would be several years before he would be released; in very poor condition after having been badly treated.
I guess the only thing left for me to ask is, what does this day mean to you? What do you think about when this day comes around? Do you think that it is just another excuse to have a day off? Do you think about the founding fathers and the struggles that created this nation? I certainly hope so, well maybe I hope so, and I cannot know for sure, all I know is that we should. We should bring up in our hearts and perhaps even give voice to every patriotic song we have ever heard in our lives. From the time we are little we have heard them in every parade and concert ever held on this day or any other patriotic holiday. For those of you that can’t sing and you all know who you are; just hum them it’s better that way anyway. No on second thought belt them out like you’re the headliner in Vegas, for it matters not how you sound but what you sing. May the songs be loud and the toasts be proud for this the country with stars and stripes as its symbol.
So, to you my family and friends go out among the day grab your family and those families around you go to your favorite picnic place and celebrate this day as it was meant to be. Oh and in case you are wondering what the founding fathers thought about how this day should be honored we need only to look again to Thomas Jefferson who once wrote that “this day should be celebrated and toasted with gatherings of friends and family for picnics and fireworks church bells and cannon fire sounding off in celebration”… . Well, perhaps he did not use those exact words but the sentiment is the same. Grab your beverages and coolers of food and if you can your fireworks, head out to some scenic part of America or just your back yard and let it go. Okay if you want to know how it was celebrated in the early years of this country I will tell you. They would gather and have picnics and offer up toasts to the country, followed by cannon fire and fireworks. Although it is possible that it was cannon fire then toasts, but since it lasted throughout the day and into the evening it is kind of hard to say which comes first after a while of that I am sure. Our Founding Father’s showed us the way to freedom; it is up to us to continue to follow. So Happy Independence Day America… birthday number 235 long may you stand!

1 Declaration of Independence, by Thomas Jefferson July 4, 1776


1 Comment

Filed under Holidays, Independence Day

One response to “From There to Here !

  1. marie

    Well Mr W. M. Stahl that was great loved it.


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