The Great Anniversary Festival
The words that launched this country on its journey to greatness were written by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, and we can only wonder if, as he scratched his quill pen across a clean sheet of parchment, he knew the extent to which he would be shaping the history of the world.
By early June of 1776, the Second Continental Congress had decided that a formal document needed to be created, one that would inform the King, the people of Great Britain, and the governments of the world that the will of the American people was unshakeable and unmistakable: the thirteen American colonies, united, would have nothing less than complete independence from the British crown.
The declaration that Jefferson produced a scant month later shook the foundations of Europe -- and signaled the rise of what would become the greatest nation in history.
Today, as we have on every Fourth of July since 1776, we celebrate that Declaration of Independence and the nation that was born on the day it was affirmed. Of the adoption of the declaration by Congress, John Adams wrote to his wife "I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the Great Anniversary Festival."
All too often we take for granted the men who signed that parchment, but we should always be mindful that in the eyes of King George and the British Parliament -- rulers of a nation that possessed the most formidable military in the world -- the signers were nothing more than traitors, deserving of nothing less than execution. By his affirmation of the declaration each man knew he might be signing his own death warrant -- so we would do well to remember that our nation was born because men of steel nerves and raw courage willed it to happen.
We were never meant to be a country of the timid -- we were destined for boldness and greatness from the beginning, because those were the traits of our founders and forefathers. They apologized to no man or monarch; they ran from no fight; they defended their rights -- and ours -- to the moment of their death.
Ironically, for two of the men responsible for the creation of the Declaration, John Adams and Jefferson himself, that moment of death came 50 years later to the day; they passed into history within hours of each other on July 4th, 1826.
So as we bask in the happy company of family and friends today, let's reflect on the courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Most of them were many days travel from hearth and home, gone for months at a time, suffering and debating through two hot, pestilent Philadelphia summers. All of them, to a man, risked their lives for their principles -- because they believed, as you believe and I believe, that the natural state of man on Earth is freedom and that there is no higher cause than liberty.
As much as anything else this day, we should remember and celebrate their courage, those men of the Second Continental Congress, and the bravery and dedication of all the men who gave their lives for that glorious cause.
We are honor-bound, too, to acknowledge that they bestowed upon us a responsibility we cannot shirk and cannot ignore: America, the last, best hope of man on earth, must be defended at all costs against those who would destroy her by force of arms -- or enslave her with the stroke of a pen.
Frank Santarpia, Staten Island, NY. Founder, Staten Island Tea Party: www.teapartysi.com.