They were not political firebrands, but the moment had come when freedom and liberty became paramount. Gathering in a cramped hall in Philadelphia, the delegates offered and debated ideas in chartering the way forward. While some believed a strong declaration of principles needed to be stated, others believed in a less strident approach. They all believed, however, the time had come to assert independence. Any document, though, would be seen as an act of treachery to the British crown. By meeting, they were already risking all.
The duty of drafting the Declaration fell unto Thomas Jefferson. A gifted writer and studied man, with clarity of thought. Any declaration needed to inspire, yet be plainly spoken, and why a course of action was needed. The prose Jefferson was seeking was difficult in coming. Several draft manuscripts were penned. Presented to the Continental Congress, the manuscripts were debated. With June soon becoming July, Jefferson became concerned about whether any document could be drafted and ratified. The words and prose eventually came, and the Continental Congress edited the draft that would become the formal Declaration.
The words, “When in the course of human events” the Declaration begins with, were so lyrical. They stirred the mind to inspire and dream of what can be. A nation founded on freedom and liberty, where all are equal. It was a document so different from others. It dared to believe and trust in the wisdom of her people.
When the Declaration was finally adopted, the 56 delegates affixed their signatures, knowing they had risked all – life, liberty, family and fortune. John Adams said it was a day to be celebrated with parades, bonfires and fireworks. And, it should be celebrated as such in the years ahead.
Today, we celebrate the birth of our nation in the manner as proscribed by Adams.
To all our friends and readers across America, may you have Happy Fourth!
Photo credit: Image of the Declaration of Independence courtesy of the National Archives.