Summer, 1776. What kind of guts does it take to start a nation that puts The People truly in charge while separating from a king with “a decent respect” as they listed their grievances, one by one. Where does such courage come from?
I’ve seen it in the National Archives. I could almost feel the tension, the nerve, the resolve, the steady hand, the “team spirit” of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. I still wonder, to this day, what those moments of adoption and signing must have been like. It’s one thing to say “Hear! Hear!” and quite another to sign the parchment.
The average age of the 56 signers was 44 with 12 being younger than 30. I understand the guts of a young person with a cause. I understand the elderly signers who have lived a life dreaming of freedom and are willing to sacrifice to the last measure. It’s the middle age signers, the ones in the prime of life who would be called upon to lead and to stay banded together with these 56 signers whose courage amazes me. Imagine leaning over a desk with ink well and pen in hand, pledging your life, your fortune, and your sacred honor as you look around the room. Maybe you got along well with some of the others there. Maybe you disagreed with a few, but surely there was a deep resolve and solid respect for those who were about to pledge with you.You found common ground as you forged ahead hoping, yes, praying for the best outcome. Yet, in the pit of your stomach you knew what lies ahead, in the words of Thomas Paine just six months later, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
What about spouses, children, employees? Imagine what the families thought about this statement and how it would affect them: “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, a separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them..” Wow. The mood, the feelings are unimaginable. I think you would have to have been a fly in the wall of each home.
And how about the foreigners who were among the signers? They were from Liverpool, Wales, Gloucester, Ireland and Scotland. Imagine thinking about the extra punishment you would receive as a traitor on foreign soil if caught.
One would think the signers were all military. They were not. Some of them were physicians, lawyers, merchants, ministers, plantation owners, and more. All of them-ALL OF THEM- signed a document that says, “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” (which includes property that you own ). Then and now, Americans steadfastly hold the words of the Declaration of Independence as the foundation for life as a citizen of this nation.
“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.” And so they did. Many of them lost their lives and their fortunes, but not their sacred honor. They remained true to their mission.
I am deeply indebted to these Signers and Divine Providence to Whom they made their appeal. I am proud to be an American.
Happy Independence Day from Common Sense Civics and Citizenship! 🇺🇸