1776: Independence Did Not Come in a Day

1776: Independence Did Not Come in a Day

Initially, John Adams thought July 2nd would be used to mark America’s independence from Britain. July 2nd was the day the Continental Congress voted in favor of Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence. It was actually the 2nd when Adams wrote to his wife, the second “will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” that would include “Pomp and Parade…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other.”

In fact, Lee’s motion for independence was first introduced a month before on June 7th to heated debate and, while it wasn’t voted on, a five-man committee to draft a formal statement of independence was formed. It was comprised of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson took the lead and is largely credited with authoring the Declaration of Independence, formally adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4th 1776, thus our American Independence Day was born.

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, — 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 foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Yet, for many Americans, it wasn’t until the War of 1812, again, with Britain, that the day took on added significance. And it took until 1870 for Congress to make July 4th a federal holiday. Looking back, the man who introduced the original motion, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, didn’t even favor the U.S. Constitution. But he did place states rights before federalism. How’s that for a revolutionary idea in this day and age?

That isn’t meant to in any way dampen the celebrations today on our nation’s official birthday, but to also understand it as a complex process long fought for and hard won for a reason. America’s quest for and realization of independence, which many Americans rightfully equate with liberty today, actually traces its roots back to 1765 and the Stamp Act, followed by the Tea Act of 1773 and the Intolerable, or Coercive Acts of 1774.

The traditional concept of American liberty didn’t come readily, easily or quickly in 1776. If there’s a lesson in that for those who might think and feel as I do, that our government has become overreaching, a solution to that problem won’t come quickly or easily today.

The causes for the American Revolution far exceeded anything which Americans face today at the hands of the federal government. Only the foolish, or too quick minded should even suggest it. Yet, just as revolution can be long and complex, it can also come in many forms.

If there is to be some kind of American revolution today, everything required to make it a political revolution is available to us as Americans. In fact, with the explosion in communication and information flow via the Internet, one could justifiably say we are better positioned to effect such change peacefully in America today, than at any time in our history.

In important ways, that’s the kind of revolution I find myself thinking about today, even as I remember and celebrate a visionary brand of revolutionaries who made their ultimate mark on July 4, 1776. They brought so much liberty to so many, beyond the boundaries of America.  The long, difficult years of hard work, thinking, planning, and even fighting to grant America her independence and bless us with this fateful day, how can one ever truly honor it?

If I can do anything real, or genuine to truly honor those first American patriots, it’s to be fully mindful of the very real liberty so many of them labored, fought and even died for, both before and after July 4, 1776. To make up my mind that, so long as I am able, it is that same notion of liberty I will commit myself to fighting for in whatever appropriate political manner possible — today, tomorrow and the day after that.

These ideas are what caused me to reflect upon the fact that liberty did not come easily, suddenly, or even quickly on one day, July 4th 1776. No amount of liberty will thrive or return … unless American patriots are every bit as willing and determined to be mindful of it, … to protect, defend, preserve and honor it today, July 4, 2012, just as our Founding Fathers did in their day.

God may bless America, but only Americans can preserve it.