I wonder how many are aware of what significant events took place on July 1, 1776.
Oh you may have a general idea of what happened three days later, but the events of July 4th are firmly rooted in the events of July 1st through the 3rd and earlier.
The colonist of North America were looked upon, spoken about, and generally treated as a lesser form of human species by the King, the Parliament and the people of Great Britain.
They were not permitted to manufacture and trade goods outside of their own colonies. Exorbitant taxes were levied upon them, yet they were not allowed to send representatives to the very Parliament that wrote the laws that governed them and levied the taxes that were demanded of them.
The regents and government officials sent by the King and the Parliament to enforce those laws and taxes were permitted by law to enter the businesses and homes to search and confiscate whatever goods they deemed appropriate without warrant.
Yet, the colonists were required to house and feed the very men who were oppressing them.
A Declaration That Changed the Course of History
The colonists wrote appeal after appeal to the King and to the Parliament, receiving no redress or relief. Indeed, the oppression grew worse.
Godly pastors and dedicated Christian leaders were urging restraint and further appeal, while also urging preparation for personal protection against unwarranted aggression by a tyrannical government.
The Boston Massacre signaled a clear and present danger.
The words of John Hancock, President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress reveal the heart of the colonist. Addressing the Provincial Congress in October 1774, he said,
We think it is incumbent upon this people to humble themselves before God on account of their sins, for He hath been pleased in His righteous judgment to suffer a great calamity to befall us, as the present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies. Also to implore the Divine Blessings upon us, that by the assistance of His grace, we may be enabled to reform whatever is amiss among us, that so God may be pleased to continue to us the blessings we enjoy, and remove the tokens of His displeasure, by causing harmony and union to be restored between Great Britain and these Colonies. [Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory (Fleming H. Revell Company, New Jersey, 1977) p. 269]
Notice there was appeal to God for union and harmony not rebellion and civil disorder.
“The shot heard around the world” took place on April 19, 1775 when a British force entered Lexington, Massachusetts on a mission to confiscate the guns of the colonists.
A word of warning had arrived ahead of the British and small force of seventy plus men of the Minutemen militia gathered on the town green.
John Parker, commander of the Minutemen gave clear instruction, “Do not fire unless fired upon. But, if they want to have a war, let it begin here.”
When the large British force came upon the Lexington Green the commanding officer, Major John Pitcairn ordered his men not to fire, and sensing he was losing control, commanded them to stay in rank and do not fire.
Suddenly, a pistol shot rang out. The only pistols on the green that day were in the hands of British soldiers.
Seven Minutemen fell on the Green. Later that day, three hundred British forces would fall from a musket ball of a Minuteman.
Conflict was forced upon the Colonists.
As General Washington and the militia entered the towns and cities they would discover heart breaking scenes. All of the Churches that were not Church of England had been desecrated.
Some were used for horse stables others were burned; all of them suffered some measure of damage and dishonor.
The Second Continental Congress were in meetings at Philadelphia in the early months of 1776 working diligently on yet another appeal, this time directly to King George.
However, the King and the Parliament of Great Britain declared war on the Colonies.
June 6, 1776 the Continental Congress received a resolution to sever ties with Great Britain and establish and independent state. T
hey appointed a committee of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, to write a formal document.
The Congress recessed for three weeks and would reconvene on July 1, 1776.
The committee urged Thomas Jefferson to write a draft for them to study and consider.
Jefferson was uniquely qualified and prepared by God for this great task. He had spent years studying the nations of history and their forms of government.
He had discovered the most successful, the greatest government, where the people enjoyed the greatest freedoms and liberties was the early years of Israel’s history.
As long as the Israelites followed this pattern set by God, they were strong, free and they prospered.
It was upon these basic fundamentals that Jefferson based the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
July 1st the Continental Congress reassembled and debate resumed regarding the resolution to dissolve ties with the mother country and to establish a completely independent state.
July 2nd the document prepared by Jefferson and accepted by the committee was presented to the Congress.
Debate on that document ensued that day and the next. The structure of the Congress required a unanimous vote to approve the resolution and to adopt the declaration.
All of the delegates were fully aware of the gravity of the decision they were debating.
If it was agreed upon and then the colonists lost the war, each and every one of them would be hunted down and tried for high treason against Great Britain.
The penalty for high treason was:
- Hanged by the head until unconscious.
- Then cut down and revived.
- Then disemboweled and beheaded.
- Then cut into quarters and each quarter boiled in oil.
- The remnants then scattered abroad so the last resting place of the treasonous offender would remain forever unnamed, unknown, and un-honored.
[W. Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution (National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1985) p. 31]
July 4th dawned bringing a unanimous consensus among the members of the Continental Congress. The declaration was adopted and silence fell over the room.
Some stared out the windows.
Others lowered their head in prayer.
Many wept openly.
It was John Hancock who broke the silence. “Gentleman, the price on my head just doubled,” he quipped. A few chuckled around the room.
Then Samuel Adams solemnly rose and spoke.
We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and… from the rising to the setting sun may His Kingdom come. [Op. cit. 309]
Three hundred and forty-three men put their lives and the lives of their family members on the line as they set forth the document and authorized the publication of what would become known as the amazing Declaration of the United States of America.
A Declaration by the representatives of the United States of America in congress assembled.
“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 among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. 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. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States…”