|Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor
Two hundred thirty seven years ago, our forefathers sat in a hot room with closed windows arguing over the future of the thirteen colonies they represented. For a while they had thought of reconciliation with their motherland. But over time it became clear that neither King nor Parliament were interested in anything other than submission.
These fifty-six men did what had not been done before them.
They outlined their grievances on paper, declared their independence, and signed their names so both King and Parliament would know who the traitors were. The act was treason punishable by death. Some of them did die. Some were bankrupted. Many lost their homes and property. Some saw their wives and children taken and abused. But none recanted. All held firm.
237 years later we view the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America in the abstract. The grievances are distant if not surreal. But it was very real to them.
The United States of America today stands 69 years removed from D-Day.
D-Day was 79 years from the end of the Civil War, and 81 years removed from Gettysburg, which we are now 150 years separated from in time and history.
The beginning of the Civl War was 85 years from 1776 and only 72 years from the constitution being enacted.
The Revolution was only 88 years from the Glorious Revolution — a revolution from which we are separated by a chasm of 325 years.
It was the Glorious Revolution that so influenced our founders. It was not abstract to them. It was not far removed. It was an event in the lifetimes of some of their grand parents. Parliament’s supremacy was asserted. The British subjects became citizens and acquired certain rights under the Bill of Rights of 1689 while others from the Magna Carta were reinforced. Among the rights derived from the Glorious Revolution were prohibitions on taxation without representation in Parliament, prohibitions on a standing army, the right to petition the King without prosecution, the prohibition on dispensing with Acts of Parliament, and the prohibition of fines and forfeitures before convictions of crimes.
The American colonists saw themselves as British citizens, not just subjects. They saw themselves as heirs to a Glorious Revolution and the Bill of Rights that sprang therefrom. These events were not even a century beyond them. They wanted their rights and when King and Parliament would not grant them those rights they rebelled.
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.
The colonists — the revolutionaries — did not want something new, but something old. By 1776, eighty-eight years after their Glorious Revolution, the colonists realized they would have to throw off the old form of government for something new in order to gain back those rights they realized neither Crown nor Government acknowledged they had. To King George and the men of the British Parliament, these were colonists, a class of men and women not heirs to the Glorious Revolution and most certainly not true British citizens.
The colonists engaged in a conservative revolution — a revolution not for something wholly new, but for something 88 years old. They only rebeled for “new Guards for their future security” when neither King nor Parliament would grant them what they thought they already had: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What we find today to be so abstract — gun rights written into our constitution, prohibits on quartering soldiers, checks and balances and clear limits on power drawn up by men deeply skeptical of themselves and others with power — were not abstract notions to our founders. They were real. They were present. Most importantly, they were worth fighting for and, if need be, dying for.
More than two centuries now separate us from our founding fathers. The liberties they fought for were liberties to thrive absent the heavy hand of government. These days now most often the recitation of liberties from the people are those things they can do so long as government provides a safety net to ensure a soft landing in the event of failure.
Failure to our founders meant hanging. Would you this day pledge your life and be willing to die for your cause? Would you?
Those fifty-six men were willing to.
In the heat of July in room full of flies with no circulating air those men debated the future of the colonies. On July 2nd, by unanimous declaration, they proclaimed the colonies the united States of America, setting the date of adoption of the declaration as July 4, 1776. The unity then was one of purpose at the time, not unity as one nation. But that would come.
In even hotter August those men would go to Philadelphia to sign their names and make public the declaration of their treason.
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.
What they were prepared to lose remains to this very day our gain. We are 237 years removed from that time, but we should all pray we never remove ourselves so far from the spirit of 1776.
[A]ppealing 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
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