It was 243 years ago today that the Continental Congress approved the wording of the Declaration of Independence. Although Thomas Jefferson drafted the document, there was a committee that was responsible for sending it to the floor of the Congress. Two of those committee members were John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
Jefferson later said that he didn’t write anything original, that he was merely putting into words the consensus of the era concerning rights that come from God and the necessity of forming a new government.
The preamble tells us that there is a Law of Nature (a phrase traced back historically to the book of Romans in the Bible) and that our Creator granted men certain rights that government cannot take away.
The final paragraph included an appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the world” for the rightness of their motives in making the move to independence and ends with these stirring words:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, & our sacred honour.
They meant it. Many suffered for this action. They knew they were now prime targets, seen as traitors to the Crown.
What remains of our historical memory?
Point out this ignorance to some of our educators and what response might you get?
I remember very well the day in class when I found out that some of my students couldn’t write cursive. I was stunned. The loss of that skill is another blow against historical knowledge:
The Fourth of July became a major celebration for the first time on its fiftieth anniversary in 1826. Since Jefferson and Adams were still alive, they were invited to the celebrations, but both begged off due to their health. The nation was then startled a few days later by the news that both had died on the Fourth of July, exactly fifty years after their historic participation in the framing of the Declaration.
Odd as it may seem to some, that news sparked unity in the nation, as if God held off their deaths for that specific day to highlight the significance of American independence.
Unity. What a nice concept.
Are we worse off now than ever? As a historian, I know there have been worse times in some ways—the Civil War, the Great Depression. We came through those, but what about today?
Our problem may be worse today with the rapid decline in our culture’s Biblical worldview. As you go about your celebrations today, pray for God’s mercy on our nation.