Community Engagement Committee - Fairfax County, VA
Reflections on the 4th of July

June 30, 2013
 
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 ofHappiness.”Penned by Thomas Jefferson, United States Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776
Visiting the Supreme Court of the United States, I admire its majestic pillars and Classical architecture.  Walking through the Great Hall, the busts of former Chief Justices aligns the Hall with an inscription of the Chief Justice Birthdate and date of death; and accomplishments. Entering the Court Chamber, I imagine the Chief Justices asking compelling questions as the lawyer for the plaintiff and defendant attempt to persuade them with their oral arguments.  The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law and guards our constitutional liberties (Welcome to the Supreme Court of the United States Brochure).  The Supreme Court’s mission is “Equal Justice under the Law.” However, the fight for justice and law is won by men whose love for country supersedes their desire to live a comfortable life of complacency and dispassion.  The United States fight for Justice, freedom, liberty, and independence is won with a great price – the price of death, rebellion, war, and conflicting loyalties.
 
The Revolutionary War is a war between the thirteen colonies and the Kingdom of Great Britain. The British Parliament wants to tax the colonies; the colonies believe they are overly taxed.  The colonies want to be free of tyrannical rule but the British believe strongly that the colonies loyalties should be The King’s. The Declaration of Independence is the statement that the thirteen colonies adopt to be thirteen free and independent states. Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, 3 President of the United States, and wartime Governor of Virginia pens the statement “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  This statement paints and embraces the moral directive of the thirteen colonies. Nevertheless, freedom is not won without a fight and personal struggle. The leaders of the Declaration of Independence are now traitors to The King and punishable by death (United States Declaration of Independence – Wikipedia).
Below is commonly printed on the internet but I give special gratitude to the author and his sources.
Special Thanks to Bob Aldrich for sharing Our Nation’s First True Patriots (www.keelynet.com/4th99.htm. Other Sources: Robert Lincoln, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, with Biographical Notices of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Brattleboro Typographical Company, 1839); John and Katherine Bakeless, Signers of theDeclaration (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1969); Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1789 (Washington, D.C. :U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?
For the record, here’s a portrait of the men who pledged “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” for liberty many years ago.
Fifty-six men from each of the original 13 colonies signed the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776.  Nine of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers and two were cousins. One was an orphan. The average age of a signer was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest delegate at 70. The youngest was Thomas Lynch Jr. of South Carolina at 27.
Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Twenty-two were lawyers-although William Hooper of North Carolina was “disbarred” when he spoke out against the king – nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins has been governor of Rhode Island. Forty-two signers had served in their colonial legislatures.
John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend. (Indeed, he wore his pontifical to the sessions.) Almost all were Protestants. Charles Carroll of Maryland was the lone Roman Catholic.
Seven of the signers were educated at Harvard, four at Yale, four at William & Mary, and three at Princeton. Witherspoon was the president of Princeton, and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary. His students included Declaration scribe Thomas Jefferson.
Seventeen signers fought in the American Revolution. Thomas Nelson was a colonel in the Second Virginia Regiment and then commanded Virginia military forces at the Battle of Yorktown. William Whipple served with the New Hampshire militia and was a commanding officer in the decisive Saratoga campaign. Oliver Wolcott led the Connecticut regiments sent for the defense of New York and commanded a brigade of militia that took part in the defeat of General Burgoyne. Caesar Rodney was a major general in the Delaware militia; John Hancock held the same rank in the Massachusetts militia.
The British captured five signers during the war. Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton were captured at the Battle of Charleston in 1780. George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Richard Stockton of New Jersey never recovered from his incarceration of the British Loyalists. He died in 1781.
Thomas McKean of Delaware wrote John Adams that he was “hunted like a fox by the enemy- compelled to remove my family five times in a few months.” Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war.
Eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed. Francis Lewis’s New York home was razed and his wife taken prisoner. John Hart’s farm and mills were destroyed when the British invaded New Jersey, and he died while fleeing capture. Carter Braxton and Nelson, both of Virginia, lent large sums of their personal fortunes to support the war effort but were never repaid.
Fifteen of the signers participated in their states’ constitutional conventions, and six- Robert Sherman, Robert Morris, Franklin, George Clymer, James Wilson, and George Reed – signed the U.S. Constitution.
After the Revolution, 13 signers went on to be governors. Eighteen served in their state legislatures. Sixteen became state and federal judges. Seven became members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Six became U.S. senators. James Wilson and Samuel Chase became Supreme Court justices. Jefferson, Adams, and Elbridge Jerry each became vice president. Adams and Jefferson later became president.
Five signers played major roles in the establishment of colleges and universities:  Franklin and the University of Pennsylvania; Jefferson the University of Virginia; Benjamin Rush and Dickinson College; Lewis Morris and New York University; and George Walton and the University of Georgia.
Adams, Jefferson, and Carroll were the longest surviving signers. Adams and Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826, the 50 anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Carroll was the last signer to die in 1832 at the age of 95.
Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. THEY HAD SECURITY, BUT THEY VALUED LIBERTY MORE. 
 
America has become one nation after the Revolutionary War. Nothing symbolizes America more than its flag. We pledge allegiance to the flag, and in doing so, pledge allegiance to the United States of America.
ONE NATION UNDER GOD
During the Fourth of July, Americans look to the flag as an icon that represents America- its strength, honor, and unity.  Since America is a diverse country, the American flag also evokes many feelings and symbolizes many things to Americans. In its infancy George Washington, leader of the Continental Army, orders the flag to be hoisted up during a siege by the British in Boston.  The flag had thirteen stars representing the thirteen colonies and alternate red and white stripes and a British jack the ripper located on the left-hand corner.  Today, the flag has fifty stars representing the fifty states; and thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white, representing the original thirteen colonies. The Red stripes represent hardiness and valor; white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice (U.S. Flag Site http://www.usa-flag-site.org/history.shtml).
Americans will be singing and playing the ‘Star-spangled banner’ this Fourth of July. Americans singing will be patriotic, sonorous, gentle, and soft. We will be reveling in America’s freedom with the national Anthem, The Star – spangled Banner. The Star – spangled Banner is declared our national Anthem on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. (http://www.biography.com/print/profile/francis-scott-key-9364165).
LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE BRAVE
Francis Scott Key pens the Star – Spangled Banner during the War of 1812. America is at war with the British over trade issues and the capturing of American seamen.  During the battle of Fort Henry, one of Francis Scott Key’s friends Dr. William Beans is taken prisoner. Francis Scott Key, a lawyer, and Colonel John Skinner negotiates Beans freedom; however, they could not return to land until the British stopped the bombing of Fort McHenry.  Francis Scott Key, Colonel John Skinner, and Williams Beans are at sea when on September 13, the bombing of Fort Henry stopped. The British are not able to capture the fort and flee.  Francis Scott Key at the dawning of September 13 is surprised and amazed that ‘our flag was still there.’ Inspired by the flag he writes the words to the Star-Spangled Banner as a poem that evolves into our National Anthem (Francis Scott Key. Biography).
JULY 4, 2013
I haven’t been in a point in my life where I had to risk for ‘my life, fortune, or sacred honor.’ I respect those who came before me. Our country is free and our nation strong. I am experiencing a lifestyle that is a result of their hard work, sacrifice, honor, and loss. I respect our laws and the judges who sit not only on the Supreme Court, but in all courts. Although I admit our legal system has its flaws, it is still the best system in the world. I am deeply grateful and in awe.  This July 4 will be different. Instead of thinking of how I want my grilled hamburger cooked, or what I will do to keep myself entertained, I will reflect on the valorous acts of the brave men and women who came before me. I will revel at the brave men and women who are fighting for our freedom today. Then and only then, I will eat my hamburger and sing the Star Spangled Banner! I invite you to do the same.

Posted on July 1st, 2013


 
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