July 4, 1776: Independence and Sacrifice
An Op-Ed By: Senator Charlie Ross
“. . . 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 summer of 1776 was a tense time for the members of the Continental Congress. A little over a year prior, the battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill had taken place in Massachusetts. These battles had shown that the colonist militia were willing to fight. However, the fact still remained that the 13 colonies, with only an embryonic government, were facing the colossal military and naval power of England.
Despite these odds, the Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776, declared “That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; . . . and that all political connection between them and the state of Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; . . . .” By signing the Declaration with these words, the members of the Continental Congress were traitors in the eyes of the British crown. Given the odds, and King George III’s determination to subdue the “insurrection” in the colonies by military means, the 56 members of the Continental Congress who signed the Declaration were very likely signing their death warrants.
Given these stakes, the last sentence of the Declaration, quoted at the beginning of this article, were not idle words. The members knew that declaring independence meant war, and that war would require sacrifice: “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. In adopting the Declaration, however, Congress made some changes in his wording. One of the changes was the insertion of the phrase “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence . . . .” This reference to God, theological in tone and meaning, was an intentional addition. The founders wisely realized that their destiny was not just in their own hands, but instead was dependant on a higher being.
Today, the 4th of July, is a time of celebration. Parades, cookouts and fireworks with family and friends characterize the day. Such is proper and good, given that we, as a free people, have much to celebrate. In the midst of our celebration this year, however, we should realize that even though 231years have passed since that fateful summer in 1776, some things have not changed, despite the change in circumstances..
Freedom is still costly, but it is still worth the price. To obtain our independence and freedom, a willingness to “mutually” pledge “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” was necessary in 1776; to maintain our independence, the same type of mutual pledge, and willingness to sacrifice is necessary today. This is especially true in light of the long-term war against terrorists, who would like nothing more than to destroy our free way of life.
Further, even though the United States is the most powerful nation in the world today, we must still humbly realize that our destiny is not our doing alone. We still need “the protection of divine providence.”
We have much to be thankful for, not the least of which is founders with the courage to stand up for independence and freedom. It is our responsibility to keep faith with them by being willing to do the same today.
Happy 4th of July, and God Bless America!
Charlie Ross Press Release