Most of us have a pretty good understanding of the Declaration of Independence. I decided to get my copy out and really study it to see if I could get an even better grip on its meaning and its language.
The Declaration came about because quite simply the colonists were tired of being pushed around by a government thousands of miles across the sea whose interest seemed to only be about the tax that government could collect. The British Crown refused to accept our laws or our choices for leadership or just about anything the King didn’t think of or approve beforehand.
As has been reported, some hard drinkers sat around the pubs of the time complaining about all of the problems levied on them by the British. They didn’t like the so-called Royal Guards. They didn’t like having to pay taxes to a King who did nothing for them. One particular individual famously known as a rum smuggler and bootlegger was upset because the British had seized some of the ships he was using to bring untaxed rum to the colonies. That individual was none other than John Hancock. He was not a man to be toyed with.
So they decided the answer was to create their own country with their own government in defiance of British rule. They asked Thomas Jefferson to draft a declaration to send to the King telling him in no uncertain terms that they were tired of the nonsense, and they were henceforth independent of the Crown. All of the signers, all 56 of them, knew to sign that document was an act of treason and it was punishable by death. They signed it anyway.
Stating we hold these truths to be self-evident means simply the situation should be obvious to anybody with a brain. They went on to say all men are created equal and are endowed by their God, not some king, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And that no man, regardless of his station in life, was above the law. This was the beginning of the Declaration.
Next came the long list of grievances and complaints against the King. The list is indeed long so I’ll just say they were unhappy and were willing to put their lives and fortunes on the line to make it clear to the King they had had enough.
They also told the King that on many occasions they had complained to no avail. They said this should not come as a shock to the British government having come before the Crown humbly begging for redress. But they were ignored.
Buoyed – some say by the rum that was readily available – and concerned that supply may well be in jeopardy, they signed and sent the letter.
Obviously the King could not allow this insurgency. How dare these colonists! He had to put this revolt down. And he tried. Oh how he tried. It took two wars for the British government to learn the colonies were not going to give in; that these freedom-loving people had too much to lose to give up. And they never would.
It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t quick. But it was worth it. America was born and prospers yet today. The truths that were so evident to the early colonists are still evident today. We celebrate Independence Day. We celebrate freedom. We celebrate America. Long may she live.
Happy Independence Day!