Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Let Freedom Ring!

On March 23, 1775, there were some in the House that thought it better to have peace then fight for freedom. The House was leaning toward not committing troops against the encroaching British military forces. Patrick Henry rose to speak and said in part: “If we wish to be free . . . we must fight! . . . 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!” (Orations of American Orators, (New York: Colonial Press, 1900) p. 59) The crowd jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!” Patrick Henry was one of the influential advocates of the American Revolution.

On the 4th of July in 1776 the Congress assembled in Independence Hall in Philadelphia to decide whether or not to officially accept the Declaration of Independence which reads in part:

"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."

As the congress was assembled, an elderly 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 and had his doubts saying, “They will never do it. They will never do it.”

The signing of The Declaration of Independence was a solemn act, and required great firmness and patriotism. It was treason against the government of Great Britain—an offense that was publishable by death.

At the signing, Benjamin Franklin is quoted as having replied to a comment by John Hancock that they must all hang together saying, “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,” (Jared Sparks, The Life of Benjamin Franklin, (Boston: Whittemore, Niles and Hall) p. 408) This play on words suggested that if they failed to stay united and win the revolution, they would surely each be tried and executed, individually, for treason.

By unanimous vote the declaration was adopted and the blue-eyed boy outside the door began clapping his hands and shouted to the bell man above, “Ring! Ring!” The elderly bell man hurled the iron tongue of the bell back and forth one hundred times, proclaiming, “Liberty to the land and to the inhabitants thereof.” (B.J Losing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, (New York: George F. Colledge & Brother, 1848)

The Declaration of Independence was official but the fight for freedom was just beginning. The Revolutionary War continued on for seven years. On August 8, 1776, General George Washington wrote the soldiers saying, “Allow me, therefore, to address you as fellow citizens and fellow soldiers engaged in the same glorious cause . . . there can be no doubt, that success will crown our efforts, if we firmly and resolutely determine to conquer or to die. . . We must now determine to be enslaved or free. If we make freedom our choice, we must obtain it by the blessing of Heaven on our united and vigorous efforts. I salute you, Gentlemen, most affectionately, and beg leave to remind you, that liberty, honor and safety are all at stake; and I trust Providence will smile upon our efforts, and establish us once more, the inhabitants of a free and happy country. I am, Gentlemen, your humble servant.” (Jared Sparks, The Writings of George Washington, Volume IV, (Boston: Ferdinand Andrews, 1838) p. 37-38)

The last major battle of the Revolutionary War was the Battle of Yorktown when the American and French forces achieved a large and decisive victory over the British, capturing over 7,000 of the British troops and forcing an unconditional surrender by General Lord Cornwallis on October 17, 1781. During the surrender, the British drummers played the march, “The Day the World Turned Upside Down.” The surrender of Cornwallis’s army prompted the British government to eventually negotiate an end to the conflict. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Revolutionary War.

There were 217,000 American service members that fought during the eight year Revolutionary War. They suffered much sickness, privations, hardships and death, but their courage, desire for freedom, and reliance on the Almighty led them to an eventual victory. There were 4,435 that gave their life in battle and an additional 6,188 were wounding during the battles of the war. (United States Department of Veteran Affairs, Retrieved June 30, 2008 from

With the 4th of July coming this Friday, I felt it an appropriate message this week to reflect on the lives of those who gave their all to secure the freedoms we now enjoy. Before you light off your fireworks on the evening of the 4th of July, may I suggest you have a moment of silence to honor the lives of those who fought to secure America’s independence and say a prayer of thanks to God for sending such men to secure the freedoms we enjoy.

On the fiftieth anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, two of the Founding Fathers who assisted in the drafting of the Declaration and served as Presidents of the United States passed away. In the spring of 1826, Thomas Jefferson’s health rapidly declined confining him to his bed. On the 3rd of July, he inquired the day of the month. On being told he expressed a fervent desire to live until the next day, to breathe the air of the fiftieth anniversary of his country’s independence. On the morning of the 4th after having expressed gratitude to his friends and servants for their care, he said in a distinct voice, “I resign myself to my God, and my child to my country.” At nearly the same hour John Adams passed away and the last words he uttered were, “Independence for ever!” (B.J Losing, Signers of the Declaration of Independence, (New York: George F. Colledge & Brother, 1848)

May we each this 4th of July, 2008, the 232nd anniversary of The Declaration of Independence, pledge our lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the work of freedom and declare the final words of John Adams, “Independence for ever!” If our freedom is to be preserved, the great men and women of this nation must again unite and work and fight for freedom as did our inspired founders.

May God’s blessings be upon you and the United States of America.

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