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© Frank Gromling 7/4/2022
This reflection in honor of Independence Day transports us back 247 years to 1775. War rages between the Colonists and the British; the 2nd Continental Congress is meeting in Philadelphia to determine a course of action against the King’s outrageous tyranny. Not all colonists seek separation from the Crown; but there is great turmoil, doubt, and fear throughout the colonies.
In January 1776, the recent British immigrant Thomas Paine, publishes his pamphlet “Common Sense,” in which he argues that independence is a “natural right” and the only possible course for the colonies.
In March, North Carolina’s revolutionary convention becomes the first to vote in favor of independence; seven other colonies follow suit by mid-May.
On June 7, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduces a motion calling for the colonies’ independence. His resolution reads: "Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
Amid heated debate, delegates postpone the vote on Lee’s resolution and call a recess for several weeks. Before departing, however, the delegates appoint a five-man committee – including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, and Robert R. Livingston of New York – to draft a formal statement justifying the break with Great Britain. This document becomes known as the Declaration of Independence.
As Jefferson drafted it, the Declaration is divided into five sections, including an introduction, a preamble, a body (divided into two sections) and a conclusion.
In general terms, the introduction effectively states that seeking independence from Britain has become “necessary” for the colonies.
The preamble contains this passage: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable 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.”
The Continental Congress reconvenes on July 1st, 1776 and extends into July 2nd; 12 of the 13 colonies adopt Lee’s resolution for independence. The process of consideration and revision of Jefferson’s declaration continues on July 3rd and into the late morning of July 4th. Congress officially adopts the Declaration of Independence later on July 4.
As the first formal statement by a nation’s people asserting their right to choose their own government, the Declaration of Independence becomes a significant landmark in the history of democracy. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence become the three essential founding documents of the fledgling United States government.
As this reflection reminds us, achieving great things is not always easy or simple, or without pain. But it is possible when the purpose is just and right, and when people stand firm against tyranny.
I encourage all of us to read these documents and hold them dear in order for our country to enjoy another 246 years and more. May your Independence Day remind you of what so many others have given in order for us to have greater freedoms than any other people on earth.
I encourage us to know the importance of our freedoms, especially in light of current efforts by some to distract and divide us. Today, Dr. Holmes’ words about Freedom have even more meaning than when they were first spoken.
"The Divine Plan is one of freedom; bondage is not God-ordained. Freedom is the birthright of every living soul. All instinctively feel this. The Truth points to freedom under Universal Spiritual Law. Thus the inherent nature of each person is forever seeking to express itself in terms of freedom. We shall do well to listen to this Inner Voice, for it tells us of a life wonderful in its scope, of a love beyond our fondest dreams, of a freedom the soul craves.”
God bless America and each of us.
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