247 years ago, our Founding Fathers put their reputations and lives on the line — literally — when they signed the document that in effect charted the course for a new nation. Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence announced to the crown that the thirteen American colonies were now independent states, no longer part of or bound to the British Empire. (The very faded original signed document, which was actually signed on Aug. 2, 1776, is part of our nation’s heritage and is on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.)
While this Declaration was certainly a product of late 18th-century America, certain parts of it have become synonymous with basic human rights around 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.”
While Thomas Jefferson is considered the principal author, the Declaration can be more likely attributed to a “Committee of Five” appointed by Congress on June 11, 1776: John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration was modified by the committee and eventually adopted on July 2, 1776.
John Adams, a signer and our second president, predicted that July 2 would become our national holiday. Because the final wording of the already-passed Declaration was approved on July 4, in large handwritten letters on the top of the document, our Independence Day is actually two days later than Adams originally believed it would be. Ironically, on the 50th anniversary of the final adoption of the declaration, July 4, 1826, both Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Their legacy, as well as all the Founders and early American patriots, is a nation and a people still worthy of celebration. As always, celebrate responsibly, and cast a thought or two back to the people who actually signed a document that closed with the following:
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.”
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Speaking of July 4, please come to Sombrero Beach for our big July 4 celebration! Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Marathon and the City of Marathon, this all-day festive beach event starts with a parade on Sombrero Beach Road, and moves to the beach. Come hungry and thirsty — the event features burgers, dogs, beer, soda and more being sold by Rotarians, and the money goes to local scholarships and charitable donations. There will be fun stuff for kids of all ages, as well as live music, and the best small-town fireworks display in America. See you at Sombrero on Independence Day!