Please take a moment, my fellow Americans, between the hamburgers and the fireworks, to remember the price paid and the debt owed.
On the Fourth of July, 1776, the final draft of the grievances of a People was approved, two days after the Lee Resolution was enacted. Fifty-six delegates signed the document over the following weeks, the last rumored to sign on November 4th of that year. Within the many copies of the document lies the best-known sentence in the English Language: "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."
By the time of ratification, American colonists had been engaged in warfare with Great Britain over a year. The Battles of Lexington and Concord, the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys and then Colonel Benedict Arnold, and the Battle of Breed's Hill, all took place in 1775.
Blood had already been spilled, lives had already been sacrificed. The course of action was arguably set in stone before it was set to paper.
Our Founding Fathers had a great burden on their shoulders. They never presented themselves as perfect. We the People who survived them these 236 years, have placed them on alabaster pedestals with lofty heights. Legends are so long persisted that there is shock when one among us realizes that our Founding Fathers were mere men. Men with flaws, certainly. Men with agendas, possibly. But most assuredly, they were men with Hope.
They had Hope for reconciliation with British Parliament. They had Hope that as they were subjects of the Crown, their goodly King George would hear their concerns and acknowledge their burdens. They had Hope that Liberty, although delicate and fleeting, might survive if given the chance to grow unfettered.
The penalty of High Treason against the British Crown was the very public and brutal practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering. Our Founding Fathers, the Men, potentially signed their death warrant when they signed the Declaration on behalf of the colonies that elected them to Congress. They could have been hanged to the point of death, emasculated, disemboweled, and then chopped up for their limbs to be scattered. Women who followed the example set by Abigail Adams could have been burned alive at the stake.
And yet their need to expel the bonds of an oppressive government was greater than their fears for their own lives and livelihoods. Their desire to give the gift of Freedom and Liberty to their Posterity so overwhelmed their senses that they risked this and more so that We the People might endure.
Yes, the United States of America have had some dark years. We the People have at times allowed injustice to prevail in our borders. It is easy for a People to look back from afar, out of time and place, and pass judgment. It is inconceivable to our modern sensibilities that a person could own another person and trade him as a commodity, that tribes of people native to our soil could be removed from their homes under deplorable conditions and marched to inhospitable lands to be forgotten for the sake of expansion. We are not alone in this; other nations great and small still practice and suffer tyranny. But if We the People forget our past, ignore the pain and blood and death it took to rise above our faults, We will be doomed to repeat it, and suffer all of it again.
To paraphrase a sentiment held by Benjamin Franklin: We the People who choose to relinquish our Liberty for a little security deserve neither and will lose both, dishonoring those who sacrificed all to obtain it.
We the People are charged by our Founders with the care of the delicate Liberty Tree. Who among Us would see it fester? Not I. I hope and endeavor to keep sacred the responsibility gifted me and I thank God everyday that I was born an American.
Happy Birthday America!
May your blessings be great for centuries to come, and your standard proudly wave o'er mountain majesties and fruited plains.