The 4th of July is about more than parades and fireworks. It is the celebration of the birth of the United States as an independent nation.
On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the final text of the Declaration of Independence, as an official act taken by all 13 American colonies. The Declaration severed the colonist’s political connections to Great Britain. Technically the signers could have been tried for high treason against the Crown of England. Each of the signers could have been executed as traitors if they had been caught by the British.
However, the colonists believed it was worth the price they might have to pay for speaking up.
During a meeting of the Second Continental Congress, on June 11, 1776, the founders chose five people to write the document which would become the Declaration of Independence,
- John Adams, from the Massachusetts Bay Colony
- Benjamin Franklin, from the Province of Pennsylvania
- Thomas Jefferson, from the Virginia Colony
- Robert R. Livingston, from the Province of New York
- Roger Sherman, from the Connecticut Colony.
The writers stated certain ideals and values that the colonists believed critical which are stated in the preamble to the constitution:
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…
They declared “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.”
The Declaration emphasized that all men have basic human rights. Further, it stated that the only reason to have a government is to protect these human rights and that the government has to listen to its citizens. The outcome, a document and vision that made and has kept America a free independent country centuries later.
So, as we toast our country on its 243rd birthday it’s worth a moment or two to reflect on the principles the Declaration outlines. They serve as the ethical values and foundation of what we stand for and advocate as a nation of free people, committed to justice for all.
Happy birthday, USA.