I must have been dozing in history class to have missed this important fact: an early draft of the Declaration of Independence was signed by only two individuals: John Hancock, President of Congress, and Charles Thompson, Secretary of Congress.
It’s documented. More about that later.
On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to sever ties with Great Britain. Two days after, the two main officers of Congress signed that early draft. On August 2, 1776, 56 members of Congress affixed their signatures.
Perhaps you remember the words of the closing paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, “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.”
Lofty words. The signers knew they could have been affixing their names to their death warrant. Great Britain wasn’t happy. In fact, there was a solemn hush in the atmosphere the day the patriots signed the document.
Dr. Benjamin Rush, one of the signers, penned a letter to John Adams in 1781, recalling the emotions that day:
“Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the House when we were called up, one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe to what was believed by many at that time to be our death warrants? The silence and gloom of the morning was interrupted, I well recollect, only for a moment by Colonel Harrison of Virginia (a big guy) who said to Mr. Gerry (small in stature) at the table: ‘I shall have a great advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing…From the size and weight of my body I shall die in a few minutes, but from the lightness of your body you will dance in the air an hour or two before you are dead.’”
John Hancock, for one, set an example. Though wealthy and living in a mansion, when the American army decided to scour Boston of all British by destroying the entire city-- including Hancock’s property—he readily agreed. He sacrificed his personal property for the cause of human liberty.
John Hart, another signer, and Speaker of the House in New Jersey, became a fugitive from the British when they marked him for execution as a traitor. He was forced to flee his family and his farm. The British destroyed his land and butchered his livestock to feed their army. His wife died and his children scattered. Hart paid for liberty with his fortune and family.
Did you ever wonder where America got the money to fund the Revolutionary War? Robert Morris arranged loans for General George Washington’s army-- tens of thousands of dollars--on his own credit. George Washington’s capture of Cornwallis at Yorktown—which ended the Revolutionary War—came about because one American patriot pledged his fortune for the cause of liberty. The new nation couldn’t afford to repay him.
As school children In the days of long ago, we were taught, “Freedom is not the liberty to do as I want, but the ability to do as I ought.”
Patriot John Adams believed the Fourth of July ought to be celebrated as a religious holiday, equal to Christmas. His son, John Quincy Adams, noted “the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior.” [It] “laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”
So, how does that filter down to the way we celebrate the Fourth of July now? It’s more than barbecues, parades and fireworks, though they all have their place.
When the young, who haven’t been taught about the sacrifices their ancestors made, decide to check their phones and look bored when the National Anthem is sung…
When old men get misty-eyed, remembering their battle buddies who died in their arms and were buried on lone battlefields overseas while they came home...
When those same old men limp on feet that were frozen while crouching in a foxhole, cradling a rifle, hoping someone back home was praying for them…
Well, the Fourth of July takes on new meaning for those fortunate to have been taught our nation’s real history before revisionists erased things.
The 56 men who signed their names to our Declaration of Independence were from all walks of life. There were ministers, businessmen, university professors, teachers, sailors and farmers. No one reacted in jealousy over the privilege of another. They all worked together to see a noble experiment succeed.
I, for one, am glad they did.
Taken from Wallbuilders, an organization dedicated to preserving American history. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the name Wallbuilders was chosen decades before anyone ever thought of erecting a wall on our southern border. Instead it’s a reference to the Biblical exile Nehemiah who succeeding in supervising the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days.