So I'll be glad to educate the oblivious masses. Let me tell you a story ..... it was in June of 1776 that Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution on the floor of the Second Continental Congress that would amount to a legal separation of 13 independent colonies from their mother country, Great Britain. It was decided that a vote would take place on the 1st of July and the ensuing three weeks would be occupied with drafting a document explaining why such a separation was being sought.
|"Spirit of '76"|
Throughout the Monday of July 1st, the Congress debated the question of whether or not to declare independence. The debates resulted in a favorable vote 9 to 2 (with two abstentions) on the afternoon of July 2nd. Having voted to declare independence, it would take them two more days to approve the final official document of the Declaration of Independence.
Now that you have the timeline down, here are some interesting facts that add to the historical lore:
--- The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence did not sign at the same time, nor did they sign on July 4, 1776. The official event occurred on August 2, 1776, when 50 men signed it.
--- The names of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were withheld from the public for more than six months to protect the signers. If independence had not been achieved, the treasonable act of the signers would have, by law, resulted in their deaths.
--- Full support of the Declaration of Independence was not supported by all members of the Continental Congress and a representative of Congress rode horseback 80 miles to reach Philadelphia and break a tie in support of independence.
--- John Hancock, as President of the Continental Congress, was the first to sign the Declaration of Independence; Thomas McKean was the last to sign in January, 1777.
--- In 1777, thirteen gunshots were fired in salute, once at morning and once again as evening fell, on July 4 in Bristol, Rhode Island. Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary in a manner a modern American would find quite familiar: an official dinner for the Continental Congress, toasts, 13-gun salutes, speeches, prayers, music, parades, troop reviews, and fireworks. Ships were decked with red, white, and blue bunting.
--- In 1778, General George Washington marked July 4 with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute. Across the Atlantic Ocean, ambassadors John Adams and Benjamin Franklin held a dinner for their fellow Americans in Paris, France.
--- Three of our Founding Fathers (all Presidents) died on July 4th; Thomas Jefferson and John Adams on the same day, July 4, 1826 (the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence); and James Monroe on July 4, 1831.
And you know something else that is interesting? The reasons for the Declaration of Independence haven't changed in these last 236 years. It still comes down to taxation without representation, religious freedom, property rights and individual liberty. Those are still important ideals to the American people. They are still values worth upholding and fighting for.
So as you celebrate today and watch the fireworks light the night sky, think back to the first celebrations in 1776.... the ringing of the Liberty Bell on July 8th to summon citizens to hear a public reading of the document that declared their independence, and the artillery salutes that General George Washington ordered from the troops. Those were days of far-reaching consequences; just as these days are. We are faced with no less a serious choice. Will we continue to labor under repressive directives from a governing body that pays no mind to our concerns? Or will we decide that our liberties are precious and worth standing up for? I contend that there is not much difference between the significance of that July 4th and this one. The only question is are we as brave and committed as they were?
Galations 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. "