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Thursday, July 06, 2017


“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...the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitles them,...they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

 July 4 marked the 241st anniversary of the birth of the United States. Rejecting the tyranny of Britain is the reason for the season.

Holiday excitement stirs the blood. Celebration inspires passion. Start with a parade. Progress to the hot dogs and hamburgers. Move on to the watermelon and ice cream. Finally, as darkness settles on the long summer day, grace the sky with fireworks. Who doesn’t enjoy the 4th of July – or more accurately called Independence Day?

On the eve of the American Revolution, roughly one third of Americans wanted to separate from England, one-third wanted to remain united with Britain, and one-third did not care. Colonists desiring separation prevailed and the rest, as they say, is history.

On June 28 delegates laid before Congress the Declaration of Independence. By July 1 holdouts still included delegates from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina. On July 2 all delegates to the constitutional convention except those from New York voted in favor of the motion to “absolve” the colonies from all allegiance to the British Crown. Thus, independence was declared on July 2. Only after much debate and a few corrections was the document accepted and signed by the President of Congress, John Hancock. On August 2 an engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence was presented to Congress and received the signatures of delegates from all colonies.

The signers were anything but hell-raising riffraff although the British may have regarded them with the same disgust as we hold the Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street crowd. Twenty-four signers were lawyers and jurists, eleven were merchants and nine were farmers and plantation owners. All were men of means and education.

As British subjects, the colonists took up arms and declared their independence at great risk. Resorting to arms was not a first choice, but all other means to redress grievances had failed.

The fifty-six signers mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. These men paid dearly for remaining faithful to their pledge and loyal to their cause. Five signers were captured by the British and tortured to death. Twelve had their homes occupied, ransacked, and ultimately burned. Nine of the fifty-six died from wounds suffered during the Revolution. Two lost sons serving in the Revolutionary Army under George Washington.

British forces destroyed the home and property of Francis Lewis. Not able to bring him to heel, they jailed his wife. She died in prison within months.

British troops forced John Hart from his dying wife’s side. His thirteen children were scattered. Eventually returning home he discovered his wife dead and children vanished. He died a few weeks later of a broken heart.

The story of suffering goes on, but space does not permit a lengthy recounting.

“History” does not occur in a vacuum. Ideas have consequences. We cannot separate the ideas of the Founding Fathers from the thinking of Reformation Europe. Our Founding Fathers understood two kinds of government. External government pertained to civil government (civil control). Throughout history external governments like monarchies, tyrannies, and dictatorships imposed the will of the few on the many. Rights were granted by government alone.

Internal government pertained to self-government (self-control). It flowed from within each person outward to the family and finally into the community. The idea of internal self-government stressed individual responsibility and self-discipline. Our founders’ idea of limited government and maximum freedom rested solidly on the assumption of internal self-government. They believed rights were imbued by the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.

Independence Day is a time to celebrate our nation’s birth. For a deeper sense of pride and satisfaction, back away from the Mardi Gras atmosphere and reflect on the reason for our nation’s existence and ultimate success. Our exceptional experience is unique in the history of nations and we must never forget it.


Dennis M. Patrick can be contacted at P. O. Box 337, Stanley, ND 58784 or (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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