IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen united States of America
It is July 4, 1776. The United States Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Second Continental Congress. Fifty-six delegates of the Thirteen Colonies are meeting in the Pennsylvania State House (known today as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress has no legal authority. Gathering in Philadelphia (city of “brotherly love”), Congress assumes its own authority from “among the powers of the earth” and by the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” to govern, and to function as a national government.
Congress assumes the power to appoint ambassadors, sign treaties, raise armies, appoint generals, obtain loans from other countries, issue paper money, and disburse funds.
Congress has no authority to levy taxes, so it simply requests money, supplies, and troops from the states to support the American War of Independence. Individual states often ignore such requests.
About a third of the American people are patriots who fight for independence. About a third are loyalists who fight for King George III. About a third are bystanders who just want to stay out of the way. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The Thirteen Colonies have been at war with Great Britain since April 19, 1775, nearly 15 months already, by the time the Declaration of Independence is adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
Ordinary British citizens—farmers and shopkeepers in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts—fire “the shot heard ‘round the world” on April 19, 1775. That first shot marks the outbreak of the American War of Independence between the Kingdom of Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in North America.
More than a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Army is founded on June 14, 1775, soon followed by the United States Navy, on October 13, 1775, and the United States Marine Corps, on November 10, 1775.
Well, alright then—we’re in it now—no turning back.
On July 4, 1776, the Thirteen Colonies declare their independence from their mother country, the Kingdom of Great Britain, and take an irrevocable leap of faith to establish the United States of America.
On Thursday, July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is signed by 56 delegates from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The Declaration of Independence states that the Thirteen Colonies are independent sovereign states, no longer subject to British rule, and describes 27 reasons why the Thirteen Colonies are at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain.
John Adams of Massachusetts is a fierce advocate for independence. He persuades the “Committee of Five” (John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut) to select Thomas Jefferson to write the original draft of the Declaration of Independence.
Congress then edits Jefferson’s draft to produce the final document, and sends it to the printer for publication.
The Declaration of Independence is the formal explanation to the American people, and to the people of the world, why the Thirteen Colonies of British North America are declaring their independence from their mother country, the Kingdom of Great Britain.
The Declaration’s second sentence is a resounding statement of human rights, that immediately catches the attention of people in every country in the world.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Nearly all the signers of the Declaration of Independence are completely against slavery. However, those from the southern colonies, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, do own slaves. Are they wrong?
Of course they’re wrong . . . and it will take the bitter, bloody America Civil War, 85 years later, before the United States of America can even begin to form “a more perfect union.” We’re still working on it.
But in 1776, everyone knows that all Thirteen Colonies need to commit themselves firmly to each other to have any chance at all of winning a long, hard fought, shooting war against the greatest military power on earth, the Kingdom of Great Britain.
A statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence expresses the idea clearly, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
It is on Thursday, July 4, 1776, that 56 men sign their names to the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America.
Those 56 men absolutely commit their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the independence of a brand new country—the United States of America—no turning back.
They state, clearly and boldly in writing, “. . . with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Their commitment—of love—means that if the British ever capture them, if their fight for independence does not succeed, they will be hanged as traitors to the Crown of England.
Honor them with the most profound respect. Regard them with the most profound reverence.