July 4 a day off from work, and for fireworks, picnics, a day at the beach and department store sales. Today is not about our pleasures; it is about men and women who were tired of living under the iron hand of British rule. They wanted their voices to be heard and to live in a more just nation. It all began years before the important signing the Declaration of Independence that ultimately formed the United States of America.
By the middle 1700’s, there were only 13 colonies the New World that were a part of England’s vast empire. The ruler was King George III of England. In 1767, the King imposed unfair taxes on goods with the Townshend Act. The discontentment of the Colonies began, to prevent serious disorder, the King dispatches 4,000 troops to Boston in 1768, which quickly proved a mistake, as the soldiers’ presence in the city only made the situation worse.
Tensions continued to mount until March 5, 1770, when a protesting mob clashed violently with British regulars, resulting in the death of five Bostonians. The event became known as the Boston Massacre. Eventually, this incident and other conflicts convinced Parliament to repeal the Townshend Acts. The tax on tea, however, remained in place as a matter of principle. This decision led to more violent incidents.
One of those confrontations happened December 16, 1773, when the Sons of Liberty boarded ships in Boston Harbor and dumped chests of tea into the harbor; later, in 1834 it would be known as the Boston Tea Party.
In 1774 the First Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia and the Boycott of British goods begins. On April 19, 1775 American forces win the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which would later be known as the “Shot Heard Around the World”. The Second Continental Congress then extends the Olive Branch Petition (A petition to avoid war) to King George III but King George refuses the petition and declares the colonies in a state of rebellion and the Revolutionary War begins.
It was not until July 2, 1776, that the Second Continental Congress presents and debates a second draft of the list of grievances. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted and signed the final draft of the Declaration of Independence. On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell (although not known as the Liberty Bell then) rang to mark the occasion.
The war went on for the next 8 years and we won our Independence on April 16, 1783, becoming the United States of America.
There is so much more to the story. So many names of people who became heroes, some we know like George Washington, John Hancock, and Paul Revere, to name a few. There are others whose names we will never know, but we will always remember their courage and sacrifice.
Today, July 4, is a day to remember with gratitude those men and women who, 236 years ago stood up for what they believed in and who created acts of treason against the crown to shape a new nation –The United States of America – a nation under God “created by the people for the people”. Let us carry on that same tradition to turn this country back to the dreams and hopes of our founding fathers, a nation created to “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.”
United States Declaration of Independence