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The Declaration of Independence

This holiday is often called “The 4th of July” rather than Independence Day.  It is important for us to take the time to remember that we do not celebrate a day in July, but we celebrate the statement of freedom and personal independence that was made on that day.  We have traditions for every holiday associated with their meanings, but Independence Day has become barbecues and fireworks.

declaration of independence

The Declaration of Independence was not just the start of the American Revolution, but of a revolution in thought.  The key phrase is this one:

“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.”

This was the basis for America.  That our rights are granted by God, not by governments.  That governments exist ONLY to serve their people.  In fact, the most radical concept was this one:

“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…”

There is no freedom or liberty unless we remember those two sentences and embrace them.  Our founding fathers risked their property, reputation, and their very lives for this belief.  Please take a moment on this Independence Day to consider the Declaration, reprinted below including the brave people who signed it, signing their own death warrants were they to fail.

signing of the declaration of independence

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

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 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.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

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 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.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

Column 2
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Column 3
John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Column 4
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

Column 5
New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

Column 6
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton


Filed under Humor and Observations, Uncategorized

Independence Day – Original Short Story

The Second Most Important July 4th

by Michael Bradley

The face in the mirror was dark, furrowed by stress and grief, and grown old.  The man had dreamt he would die in office in this dark estate ironically called cheerily as the White House.  In the next room over his beloved wife chanted in a shameful séance with the hope of contacting the spirit of their son Willie who had passed beyond the veil last year at the young age of eleven.  The loss of this second of their four children had pushed his wife past her thinly held sanity and at times he worried she would never come back fully to normality.

He moved from the mirror and looked out over the lawn from the veranda.  It was dark, but the sheep ambled about, half-heartedly eating the early summer grass, failing under the heat and humidity stifling the swampy city during the day.  He wondered when the bloodshed would end.  Surely this calamity had befallen this once great union due to turning from God Almighty and continuing to practice the sins of enslaving our fellow man.  Perhaps his own willingness to preserve the union even if it meant preserving slavery had contributed to the amount of blood that must be shed to purge this evil guilt from the nation.

Abraham… The Father of a Great Nation.  How poorly named am I if I cannot bring this terrible war to an end?  Lincoln looked into the darkness, wondering what he could do next.  There would be an election next year.  After years of battle losses he stood little hope of victory.  The war that was supposed to end in months was three years old and showed no sign of stopping.  If he lost his election, slavery would continue, the union would dissolve, and all this death would be meaningless.

Less than ninety years ago those brave God fearing individuals had risen up and declared this nation free of tyranny on July 4, 1776.  They too had bled for the cause and spent years in doubt to bring forth this new nation conceived in liberty for all.  Lincoln could not help but ponder this on July 3, 1863.  What have I to celebrate on the morrow?

Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the United States


Far away to the west, on a promontory high over the Mississippi River another man stood in front of a mirror, a small shaving mirror jarred by another artillery shell falling on his makeshift shelter in a cut-out mud cave.  His image was gaunt and skeletal.  His hand shook from hunger and thirst as much as the mirror did from percussive explosions.  He wanted to take his time to look proper, shave, and put on his least dirty uniform.

John had called for reinforcements countless times and there had been no answer of late.  Earlier on he had been encouraged to hold fast, to maintain the Gibraltar of the West here in Vicksburg.  Now he found himself surrounded and Union gunboats pounded from the river while Grant’s men assaulted the town non-stop with artillery shells and sniper rounds.  The people of the town and his own men had demonstrated exemplary honor and bravery.  But even that rarest of commodities was gone.

For a week now there had been no food.  The shoes, belts, and rats were the last to be eaten.  The horses had been killed and devoured over a month ago.  Despite the nearness to the huge river, fresh water was scarce.  High on a promontory overlooking a bend in the river, Vicksburg was great for defense but not for digging wells.  The constant shelling and lack of food made even a well digging detail deadly.  His men were nearly out of ammunition and the people of the town were living in caves on the hill, unable to survive in the burnt out buildings of what was once a town.

General John C. Pemberton had served in wars for the Union and was a Pennsylvania born man.  Despite that, he had resigned to join the Confederacy.  His two younger brothers fought for the Union and John knew that if he surrendered Vicksburg, many would claim he was a traitor.  Still, he could not bear to look at another child living in a dug-out mud hole, starving slowly because of his reticence.  What price honor if bought with the lives of his men and an entire civilian population?




Five days ago the forty-eight year old general known as “the Snapping Turtle” had been placed in command of a beaten army.  The Army of the Potomac had lost every major engagement during the three years of the war and had revolving commanders as a result.  Disorganized and spread out, George had no time to do anything except assign corps and division commanders and pull his forces a bit closer together.  This force was the only defense between Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the Capitol at Washington.

George looked over the maps and dealt with receiving information and sending out orders in the midst of the largest battle of the war.  Two days ago, the Army of Northern Virginia made contact with his men and they were fighting a bloody duel near the town of Gettysburg.  If it was another loss, it could mean the loss of the entire war.  Just three days in charge and this happens.

The first day had gone for the rebels.  Still, despite urgings by some, he put it to his generals to vote in a public meeting on staying.  Afraid to be labeled cowards, they all voted to stay.  It is what George wanted, but he did not want anyone to be able to second guess if they lost.  He had interior lines, made so clearly important by the campaigns of Napoleon.  Each time Lee hit his lines he nearly broke through, but Meade was able to hold on by reinforcing that section.

Today his men seemed to have turned the tide.  Tens of thousands already lie dead and wounded for miles.  The scene was like Hell on Earth.  Despite the carnage the rebels would not stop.  This day, July 3rd, General George Meade could only look at his maps, move his troops, and hope they would hold.  His men were brave, they were here in force in good fortified lines, but could they hold after so many losses?

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg


The following day, Independence Day, President Abraham Lincoln went solemnly down the stairs of his residence to the telegraph room.  Despite the anger of the public, his generals and even his own cabinet, he took a personal hand in managing the war.  Several times per day he received dispatches from his generals and gave them ‘suggestions’ on what they should do.  He finally had generals in place that would fight.  Was it enough?

It was a shocking surprise.  The Confederates had surrendered Vicksburg to General Grant along with 30,000 rebel troops.  The Gibraltar of the West had fallen and the Mississippi was now a Union River.  The Confederacy was effectively cut in two.  General Pemberton had waited until July 4th to surrender in hopes of getting favorable terms on Independence Day.  Instead, General Grant had insisted on ‘unconditional surrender’ and it had been given.

President Lincoln allowed himself a broad smile that was all too rare for him in recent months.  More reports came in.  Victory at Gettysburg.  General Meade reports that the Army of Northern Virginia has been beaten in battle and is now retreating south back into Virginia.  The Capitol is safe; the Union holds the field, victory in the east for now.

Could it really be?  On this glorious Independence Day when the future of the nation was at its darkest, victory at Vicksburg and Gettysburg?  Lincoln leaped to his feet in relief and cheered.  The Union would persevere yet longer.  He might win his next election and finish this horrible conflict.  He would use the loss of so many lives as the catalyst to free those in bondage.  The war, and the nation, would serve a purpose.

american flag


Filed under Humor and Observations, Uncategorized, Writing