March, 1775, Patrick Henry:
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, "Peace! Peace!" -- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
On Monday, July 1, 1776, Archibald Bullach, president of Georgia, wrote in a letter,
“This morning is assigned the greatest debate of all,… A declaration, that these colonies are free and independent states, has been reported by a committee some weeks ago for that purpose, and this day or tomorrow is to determine it’s fate. May heaven prosper the newborn republic.”
The question of Independence had already been exhausted in Congress and it was thought that the issue would simply be put to vote, but not so. John Dickenson, of Pennsylvania offered a final appeal that started a debate lasting nine hours. When the preliminary vote was cast 9 out of 13 voted yes. It was decided to postpone the final vote to the morrow.
Tonight, the first of 400 British warships are sighted off the coast of New York.
The following morning the final vote is cast and Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Delaware swing towards Independence! The vote is unanimous. July 2, 1776, in Philadelphia, the American colonies declared Independence. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, John Adams writes,
“The second day of July will be the most epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated to succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illustrations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
On the third of July, the document, The Declaration of Independence, was edited, cut, and revised and on the fourth of July the final vote for the document was taken and passed, twelve colonies voting in the affirmative and New York abstaining.
The following paragraph is from Lossing’s Lives of the Signers, p. 12,
“On the morning of the day of its adoption, the venerable bell-man ascended to the steeple, and a little boy was placed at the door of the Hall to give him notice when the vote should be concluded. The old man waited long at his post, saying, “They will never do it, they will never do it.” Suddenly a loud shout came up from below, and there stood the blue-eyed boy, clapping his hands, and shouting, “Ring! Ring!!” Grasping the iron tongue of the bell, backward and forward he hurled it a hundred times, proclaiming, Liberty to the land and the inhabitants thereof.”
Only John Hancock’s signature was applied to the document as yet.
On the second of August, 1776 the actual signing of the Declaration of Independence took place. Everything was done in secret and not published in newspapers or correspondence because of the extreme peril of the situation.
“The signing of the instrument was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism in those who committed it. It was treason against the home government, yet perfect allegiance to the law of right. It subjected those who signed it to the danger of an ignominious death, yet it entitled them to the profound reverence of a disenthralled people. But, neither firmness nor patriotism was wanting in that august assembly. And their own sound judgment and discretion, their own purity of purpose and integrity of conduct, were fortified and strengthened by the voice of the people in popular assemblies, embodied in written instructions for the guidance of their representatives.”
Lossing’s Lives of the Signers p. 11
I would be perfectly clear here that the celebration of Independence Day is not a declaration of independence from God, the Scriptures, civil government, or even independence of each other as human beings but independence of tyranny and wrongful, ungodly government. As the concluding line of the Declaration of Independence says, “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.”
In this age we often associate independence with autonomy and individualism, but nothing could be further from the intents of our country’s founders than to be independent of God.
The American Revolution was so wholly different from any other revolution and found it’s roots in the Reformation; i.e. the idea of freedom of conscience, the idea that a king is not divine but appointed by God and thus subject to the Law of God, and further that if a ruler does not hold to the moral obligations of Scripture and violates the conscience of the people it makes void its authority (Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, The Legal Claim Against Tyrants). Where the French sought autonomy from man and God and gained anarchy in it’s worst form during their revolution in 1789, America sought reliance on God and sought to form a republic ruled by the law, fashioned after the Word of God and not a democracy ruled by the mass of people fashioned after their current likes and dislikes.
There is something very deep and awe inspiring about the purpose behind the Declaration of Independence. They, the “signers”, were willing to be “stepping stones” like the pilgrims and sacrifice much so that future generations might honor God in every aspect of their lives. Much has been written in gratefulness towards our forbears by others much better than I. My hope is that we, generations later, would not forget!
Psalm 78 says, "Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God."