Dr. Bill Atwood

Happy Birthday, America!

July 4, 1776, was an unusual day in the history of the world. A small group of learned men gathered in Philadelphia with the audacity to declare their independence from their king and, further, they felt it was their right to govern themselves. This was unheard of until these men said people should run the government for the betterment of the people. Since they took the step of affixing their signatures on the document Thomas Jefferson so brilliantly created, 243 years have passed.

Most of them weren’t sure the idea would survive 10 years or even get off the ground. After all, they were taking on the mighty British government. Britain was the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. The British navy had 5,000 ships sailing around the world to ensure the safety of England as well as keeping the colonies of the United Kingdom in line. It wasn’t until I was in high school in the 1960s that the sun finally set on the British Empire.

Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Carroll, Gwinnett, Rutledge, and many others pledge to one another “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” to the cause of declaring their independence from the Crown.

That took real guts.

They were committing treason and treason was punishable by a noose around the neck dangling from a tree in full public view to keep the other subjects in line. These men knew the tyranny of a government that limits personal freedom and over-regulates the population.

These men knew the horrors of limits on their speech, the practice of their religion, or of the rights to assemble or to petition their government. They knew the government’s desire to control the ownership of guns as well as having unreasonable searches into their homes or businesses. They feared a lack of due process and they wanted speedy and fair trials by a jury of their peers.

Our forefathers declared their reasons to the world so that people would know what the rebellion was all about. The Declaration of Independence is our nation’s birth certificate and it needs to be read and re-read by citizens often. We take our freedoms for granted and we love our country. We often shrug our shoulders when the government takes another bit of our freedom away. Just look at the Declaration and then look at our Constitution. You can see what the founders feared. It was the government becoming too big. I wonder what Jefferson and Adams would think of us today.

Don’t ever forget that the Constitution grants you zero rights. Not a single one. The Constitution places limits on one entity — the federal government. With that in mind as you read Jefferson’s words you can easily see why these men were willing to sacrifice everything for the noble experiment in democracy, the United States of America.

Adams felt that the 2nd of July was the date to celebrate as that was the date the resolution was introduced by Richard Henry “Light-Horse” Lee to separate from England. The Congress approved the Resolution on the 4th hence that date was used on the document. The actual signing occurred on Aug. 2, 1776.

So celebrate with picnics, parties, parades, fireworks, and decorations. Give thanks as the 56 men did for the existence of those rights granted by God and not by a government and realize the great gift we enjoy. The right of the people to “self-government.”

On July 4, 1826, as he was dying, John Adams last words were simple: “Jefferson Lives.” How true.