38-year-old King George III ruled the largest empire that planet Earth had ever seen.
The Declaration of Independence, approved July 4, 1776, listed the reasons why Americans declared their independence from the King:
- “He has made judges dependent on his will alone …
- He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
- He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies …
- To subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution …
- For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us …
- For imposing taxes on us without our consent …
- For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury …
- For … establishing … an arbitrary government …
- For … altering fundamentally the forms of our governments …
- 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 …
- 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 …”
33-year-old Thomas Jefferson’s original rough draft of the Declaration contained a line condemning slavery: “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself … in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither … suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold.”
A few delegates objected, and since the Declaration needed to pass unanimously and time was running short with the British invading New York, the line condemning slavery was unfortunately omitted.
John Hancock, the 39-year-old president of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration first, reportedly saying, “The price on my head has just doubled.”
Next to sign was Secretary Charles Thomson, age 47.
70-year-old Benjamin Franklin said: “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”
The Declaration referred to God:
- “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God …
- All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …
- Appealing to the Supreme judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions …”
- “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.”
Many of the 56 signers sacrificed their prosperity for their posterity.
Of the signers:
- 11 had their homes destroyed
- 5 were hunted and captured
- 17 served in the military
- 9 died during the war
27-year-old George Walton signed, and at the Battle of Savannah was wounded and captured.
Signers Edward Rutledge, age 27, Thomas Heyward Jr., age 30, and Arthur Middleton, age 34, were made prisoners at the Siege of Charleston.
38-year-old signer Thomas Nelson had his home used as British headquarters during the siege of Yorktown. Nelson reportedly offered five guineas to the first man to hit his house.
Signer Carter Braxton, age 40, lost his fortune during the war.
42-year-old signer Thomas McKean wrote that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy, compelled to remove my family five times in three months.”
46-year-old Richard Stockton signed and was dragged from his bed at night and jailed.
50-year-old signer Lewis Morris had his home taken and used as a barracks.
50-year-old signer Abraham Clark had two sons tortured and imprisoned on the British starving ship Jersey. More Americans died on British starving ships than died in battle during the Revolution.
53-year-old signer John Witherspoon’s son, James, was killed in the Battle of Germantown.
60-year-old signer Philip Livingston lost several properties to British occupation and died before the war ended.
63-year-old signer Francis Lewis had his wife imprisoned and treated so harshly, she died shortly after her release.
65-year-old signer John Hart had his home looted and had to remain in hiding, dying before the war ended.
41-year-old John Adams wrote to his wife of the Declaration: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Gustave de Beaumont, a contemporary of Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote in “Marie ou L’Esclavage aux E’tas-Unis,” 1835: “I have seen a meeting of the Senate in Washington open with a prayer, and the anniversary festival of the Declaration of Independence consists, in the United States, of an entirely religious ceremony.”
John Adams continued in his letter to his wife: “You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
When 54-year-old Samuel Adams signed the Declaration, he said: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
34-year-old James Wilson signed the Declaration. He later signed the Constitution and was appointed to Supreme Court by George Washington. James Wilson stated in 1787: “After a period of 6,000 years since creation, the United States exhibit to the world the first instance of a nation … assembling voluntarily … and deciding … that system of government under which they and their posterity should live.”
Senator Daniel Webster stated in 1802: “Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”
John Jay was president of the Continental Congress, 1778-1779, and later nominated by George Washington to be the first chief justice of Supreme Court. John Jay wrote in 1777: “The Americans are the first people whom Heaven has favored with an opportunity of … choosing the forms of government under which they should live. All other constitutions have derived their existence from violence or accidental circumstances.”
Yale President Ezra Stiles, 1788: “All the forms of civil polity have been tried by mankind, except one: and that seems to have been reserved in Providence to be realized in America.”
John Adams, 1765, notes on “A Dissertation on Canon & Feudal Law”: “I always consider the settlement of America … as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for … the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.”
President Theodore Roosevelt stated in 1903: “In no other place and at no other time has the experiment of government of the people, by the people, for the people, been tried on so vast a scale as here in our own country.”
Franklin Roosevelt stated in 1939: “Rulers … increase their power over the common men. The seamen they sent to find gold found instead the way of escape for the common man from those rulers. … What they found over the Western horizon was not the silk and jewels of Cathay … but mankind’s second chance – a chance to create a new world after he had almost spoiled an old one. … The Almighty seems purposefully to have withheld that second chance until the time when men would most need and appreciate liberty.”
President Calvin Coolidge stated in 1924: “The history of government on this earth has been almost entirely … rule of force held in the hands of a few. Under our Constitution, America committed itself to power in the hands of the people.”
Ronald Reagan opened the Ashbrook Center, Ashland, Ohio, May 9, 1983: “From their own harsh experience with intrusive, overbearing government, the Founding Fathers made a great breakthrough in political understanding: They understood that it is the excesses of government, the will to power of one man over another, that has been a principle source of injustice and human suffering through the ages. The Founding Fathers understood that only by making government the servant, not the master, only by positing sovereignty in the people and not the state can we hope to protect freedom and see the political commonwealth prosper. In 1776 the source of government excess was the crown’s abuse of power and its attempt to suffocate the colonists with its overbearing demands. In our own day, the danger of too much state power has taken a subtler but no less dangerous form.”
Ronald Reagan stated 1961: “In this country of ours took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world’s history – Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rulers for another. … Here for the first time in all the thousands of years of man’s relation to man … the founding fathers established the idea that you and I had within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny.”
British Edwardian writer G.K. Chesterton stated in “What is America”: “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth … in the Declaration of Independence … that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice. … It certainly does condemn … atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived.”
Calvin Coolidge stated July 5, 1926: “The principles … which went into the Declaration of Independence … are found in … the sermons … of the early colonial clergy. … They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the Divine image.”
Henry Cabot Lodge, who filled the role of the first Senate Majority Leader, warned the U.S. Senate in 1919: “The United States is the world’s best hope. … Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance … for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin.”
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