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Salute to independence
Editor’s note: This column was originally published in our July 1, 2016, edition.
A precious part of history.
American democracy is far from perfect. “This is a great country,” President John F. Kennedy once declared, “but it must be greater.” Every American has to judge for himself or herself how far America falls short of fulfilling the principles for which it was founded. Nevertheless, the ideas endure; the goals are there if not always the reality.
We have the rights of free speech, the press, of religion, of assembly, of the right to vote, and of the right to dissent from majority opinion because, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
It was Thomas Jefferson, riding down the mountain on horseback from Monticello (his Virginia home), who headed north to take his seat in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. Just over a year had pasted since guns blazed in Lexington and Concord, but the thirteen American colonies were still under the jurisdiction of the British crown, although still at war.
This was in the early days of May 1776.
It was Thomas Paine who wrote a pamphlet called “Common Sense” in which he attacked George III, the British monarch, and referred to him as the “British Brute.” It was these fiery words which stirred the colonies.
Independence was in the air.
On June 7 Richard Henry Lee, a fellow delegate to Jefferson from Virginia, introduced a resolution declaring that the colonies “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Four days later, after impassioned debate, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five, including Jefferson, to “prepare a declaration.”
“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…”
The document was approved on July 4, 1776, and was ordered to be “authenticated and printed.”
Sometimes overlooked is the fact that Jefferson and his colleagues produced and signed a treasonable document. They were literally pledging their lives to make this new nation a reality. The words which precede the signatures are: “With a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
Even in the midst of all the culture changes, challenges and confusion going on around this nation, it is still America, still my home and one for which I am thankful for the freedoms I have and enjoy as an American.
Today I salute these men who worked long hours to bring about the document that stands today to remind us we are “Free and Independent States!”
Yet, there is a greater liberty I proclaim and hold true to – the freedom I have in Christ Jesus. He went to the cross, paid the price, died and rose again for me.
“For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3:16-18 HCSB)
Independence! It comes with a price.
Until next time…
Dr. Jeff Fuller is pastor of the Rockford Baptist Church in Rockford. You may reach him through the church office at 256-377-4900 or by email at email@example.com.