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July 4th, 1776

04 Jul

In the course of history, there are tipping points. The crucifixion of Jesus, the assassination of Julius Ceasar, the split of Martin Luther from the church, are all examples of events that literally changed the course of history.

Of course, the establishment of the United States has proven to be one of the greatest tipping points of all time. Had the colonists remained under British rule, it is likely that France and Spain would have extended it’s colonies in the vastness of North America and at some point, wars for territory and assets would have been fought. Undoubtedly, North America would look dramatically different and the empires of Europe would also.

In the late 1700′s, British colonists weary of tyranny and lack of protection took perhaps the boldest steps ever. They reluctantly, and with some dissention, decided to create a revolution and to severe the umbilical cord to the most powerful nation on Earth. Certainly they had an advantage of distance, yet the impediments to success were almost insurmountable. Yet, they did not shy away from the creation of what needed to be, what HAD to be…for themselves and future generations.

Many have maintained that the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Constitution of the United States was a product of the times. Rhetoric and inflammatory passion supposedly fueled a few reactionaries to tailor the documents to insight the revolution and make them rich. Others contend that Jefferson wrote the document on the equivalent of a cocktail napkin on a coffee break and that the words were just words and shouldn’t be taken literally.

I whole-heartedly disagree. There was intent and calculation on every word, every decision. Jefferson was chosen because Adams and Franklin were such polarizing figures that the document was sure to be dismissed by many who thought them too “revolutionary”. Jefferson was considered somewhat of a moderate and as a Virginia planter had credibility among slave owners — a large percent of the population at that time, that would be needed to support the revolution.

Jefferson drafted the document over many excruciating weeks, submitting his draft to Franklin and Adams. Franklin, alone, submitted 48 word changes, including the revision of “pursuit of happiness” in place of “property”. However, likely one of the most painful omissions that Jefferson reluctantly allowed was the extensive paragraph that specifically addressed the issue of slavery and would have served as a basis to abolish the slave trade. Unfortunately, this would produce grave consequences and another war down the road, not to mention the outright hypocrisy of a document that proclaims “all men are equal”.

But through all the turmoil and strife, the document has served as a testament of what can happen when thoughtful and intelligent people with a purpose unite to do the right thing. While certainly not perfect and always in need of improvement, our process of government fundamentally works for the good of all its citizens. We are able to come and go as we please, worship in whatever temple, church or mosque we care to (or not), we generally have an open forum to discuss our concerns and dissent on various issues, AND in America, no-one is ever exempt to attaining great things.

The thoughtfulness and passion of those brave souls who forged ahead 232 years ago, resonates just as strongly today:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries. He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the consent of our legislatures. He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments: For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever. He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.

The signers of the Declaration:
New Hampshire – Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts – John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island – Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut – Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York – William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey – Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania – Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware – Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland – Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia – George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina – William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina – Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia – Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

I just can’t resist….

Revolution, The Beatles

Seems fitting to include the real “British Invasion”.

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5 Comments

Posted by on July 4, 2008 in holidays, the beatles

 

5 responses to “July 4th, 1776

  1. Shrewspeaks

    July 4, 2008 at 7:43 am

    First…MusicMaven…great post.

    You speak about:
    “Many have maintained that the Declaration of Independence and the subsequent Constitution of the United States was a product of the times. Rhetoric and inflammatory passion supposedly fueled a few reactionaries to tailor the documents to insight the revolution and make them rich. Others contend that Jefferson wrote the document on the equivalent of a cocktail napkin on a coffee break and that the words were just words and shouldn’t be taken literally.”

    I have read many essays including American Scripture about the making of and mystique applied to the Declaration of Independence. The most astonishing fact about this particular document is that it takes the wants desires and hoped of each separate colony and distills them into a UNIFIED statement. Rightly, this document above all is symbolic of the birth of our nation. Men from such different ways of lives, economic means and religious backgrounds stood together and agreed that THESE rights above all are what is due to each and every man, woman and child called American. Is it a perfect document, no. Were these men perfect, no. But the ideals presented are worthy of continuous pursuit and these men had the courage to put aside personal ambitions and wants for the greater good of these United States.

    Politics aside…
    Many came to these shores to live life on their own terms and this idea remains true today, because we as citizens fundamentally recognize that each individual is accorded a core set of rights. Are we perfect, no. But as long as we strive to the ideal set forth by the Declaration, Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we should be able to maintain the best form of democracy on this earth.

    And for that reason, I say to you…
    Happy Independence Day.

     
  2. music maven

    July 4, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Thank you, Shrew, for your comment. As an accomplished student of history, I am always interested in your viewpoint on these matters.

    Interestingly, I have read a few articles of late that indicates that as Americans, we should be ashamed of our country. That we are heartless, greedy people who are only concerned with self. Some have even suggested that we cancel the 4th of July festivities and make today a day of atonement. I say, POPPYCOCK!

    Was America less than America during The Great Depression? The Civil War? WWI? WWII? The Energy Crisis of the early ’70s? The Vietnam War? The Cold War? etc, etc? Have we not come to the defenses of others continuously? Have we not overwhelmingly supported others who are victims of natural disasters, oppression and poverty?

    America and the ideals set forth by these thoroughly human men two centuries ago has evolved into the best country on Earth, bar none. We’ve freed the slaves, created a more equal footing for women and various ethnicities, we’ve worked on being “greener”, we strive to improve our education system, we have given the populous some tax relief and in all, we are constantly working to improve government and our laws associated with that so that all citizens are afforded the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Our country is very FAR from perfect. There are definite problems and things that must be addressed for future generations. However, if this place is so bad, why does everyone want to come here? Why is it considered “The Land of Opportunity” for those who live elsewhere? Even Europeans LOVE America, and they have been “free” for thousands of years before The United States existed.

    While I am NOT a PollyAnna, I get really ticked by people constantly bashing our country and saying that they’re going to move to France if someone they don’t ascribe to is elected President. That’s such bullshit. Because, you see, in their infinite wisdom, our imperfect forefathers set up our government with a fantastic system of checks and balances. So, our government is not controlled by a despot or sovereignty, but by representatives of the people….Congress. And, the Supreme Court ensures that Congress and the President don’t overstep themselves. So, ultimately, this country’s problems and solutions are squarely in the hands of us, the American people. People who need to stop complaining and start acting.

     
  3. shrewspeaks

    July 4, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    For generations people have said they were moving to France..Even Jefferson fell pray to the illusion that our system was lacking. It is the simple fact you have the liberty to openly disagree and that those you disagree with can say such things that bares out the beauty of our country.

    Much like John Adams, I feel our country is often misunderstood as obnoxious and disliked, when in actuality and great soul and intellect is as work. Perfect in it’s imperfection.

     
  4. sondan

    July 6, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Nicely done presentation. Thank You.

     

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