This week on most of our PBS stations we will be airing an episode featuring the renowned American Historian, Professor Richard Abrams. His book, America Transformed looks at all the changes our country has been through since World War II.
What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than to be gathered with friends and family around the barbecue pondering all the changes not just since World War II, but since our Founding Father’s signed the Declaration of Independence and put it all on the line for LIBERTY and FREEDOM.
As I do every year at this time I want to pay tribute to those brave souls who put their lives, the lives of their families, and all their fortunes at great risk for the notion of independence. The penalty for this treasonous act was death.
The list of what actually happened to many of the signers would make anyone’s heart swell with emotion. I will tell you just about a few from my home states of New York and New Jersey.
Francis Lewis, a New York delegate saw his home destroyed by the British, his wife captured and tortured, then die from the abuse.
Lewis Morris, another New York delegate, saw all his timber, crops, and livestock taken. For seven years he was barred from his home and family.
John Hart of New Jersey risked his life to return home to see his dying wife. While his wife lay on her deathbed, British troops ruined his farm and wrecked his homestead and then he was hunted across the countryside. When he was able to get back home, his wife had already been buried, and his 13 children taken away. He never saw them again. He died a broken man in 1779.
We are blessed that we do not have to risk “Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor,” but we must appreciate all those who have.
It is important for us as citizens to have a ritual that befitts the occasion to give it deeper meaning. That is why I always include the words of our Declaration every year for you to recite at your gatherings. When you read the words at your holiday celebrations it too will deepen the experience for all.
And please, due ponder what our Founding Fathers and Mothers would think if they were celebrating with you. Would they be disappointed in the results of their grand experiment, or honored and blessed with what America has become. I would not be surprised if they had as many different reactions to it as you will.
Enjoy the words, the great discussions, all the fun and have a joyous and safe Independence Day. We truly are blessed to live in the greatest country in all of history.
Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In Congress, July 4, 1776
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.
(List of Grievances against England)
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.
Enjoy this special day and share it with friends and family. Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday and remember all those who risked life and limb over these last 238 years to allow us this grace filled opportunity.
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