On July 4th, 1776, after much debate and argument, with the Lee Resolution being adopted only two days earlier, the Continental Congress adopted and printed the Declaration of Independence. A group of representatives from twelve of the thirteen colonies (New York waited for a bit) committed their lives and sacred honor to the dissolution of bonds to their native land, whose king and government had perpetrated great inequality and oppression upon the colonies. These men, whom we now call America’s Founding Fathers, were committed to principles of liberty, equality, and natural rights, and by adopting the Declaration, put their lives and that of their young union on the line.
On the same day, five of these representatives had John Dunlap print up copies of the Declaration to be disseminated through the land. Freedom from oppression and tyranny would now be fought for, and these men knew perfectly well that war would result from their actions. They knew to what they were committing themselves and the people whom they represented.
It certainly pained them. Many loved their native land, or in some cases, the native land of their parents and forebears. Indeed, portions of the British government sided with the colonists’ argument and felt that their case was quite valid. This nation’s founders did not want war and they were not all overwhelmed with a uniting sense of “We are American now and we have a particular destiny.” This was hard for them, and they knew that tomorrow would come, and thus would also come the consequences of adopting the Declaration.
So what happened on July 5th, 1776?
The copies created by John Dunlap’s printing enterprise were sent along to various committees, state assemblies, and the commanders of the Continental soldiers that had been gathering.
In other words, the members of the Continental Congress continued what they had begun. They spent the next day moving forward with the creation of a new nation, one that would enable its citizens to live according to their natural rights and liberties while still upholding the rule of law.
On July 5th, they took the next step. A step they had planned for and which was merely another early step in the long struggle for independence.
I take a poignant lesson on citizenship from July 5th, 1776. The day after I celebrate the ideals and successes of my nation, honor the women and men who went before and committed their lives and sacred honor to the well-being and long-life of my nation, recognize that this nation is most deserving of my love and reverence out of all nations of the world, and spend part of the 4th discussing with my family these issues, I continue to be a citizen of the USA.
And I will take the steps necessary to be deserving of the heritage I am blessed with by the sweat, tears, blood, and vitality of those who went before and made it possible for us to celebrate the United States of America every July 4th. I will remember that on July 5th, 1776, there was still work to be done for this country to emerge and shine her light to the world. And on July 5th, 2011, there remains plenty of work to be done to burnish that light.