You have to wonder what got into those early Americans.
There they were, being one of the newer countries in the world and they wanted to take on the British.
You can’t just say British; actually, the Americans who met in 1776 to declare their independence decided to take on the British Empire which, militarily, was the strongest empire in the world.
Her armies were seasoned veterans, many of which had fought around the world, and on that day in 1776 the British found themselves at war with America.
Actually, the war had begun in April of 1775 when American Minutemen and militia fought several skirmishes with the British at Lexington and Concord.
It was more than a year later when American patriots convened the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia to declare America a sovereign nation.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution to the group that responded to the call to Philadelphia.
His resolution read as follows: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Those were mighty big words for a new country still struggling for an identity.
Lee’s Resolution led to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. While Thomas Jefferson is generally credited with the authorship, history says a committee wrote the original draft. Jefferson was on that committee along with Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston.
Jefferson does get credit for the final draft copy that was presented to Congress on July 4, 1776 and signed by representatives of the 13 colonies.
It was a shining moment in world history. Being born of a revolution, the United States found itself in a unique position from the very beginning as being an “exceptional country.”
Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset called America, “The first new nation with a different and unique ideology. He defined Americanism as being “…based on liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, republicanism, democracy and lazier-faire economics.”
During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address said Americans have a mission and a duty “…to ensure government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Richard Rose, a 20th century Scottish political scientist, spoke on American exceptionalism, saying, “America marches to a different drummer. Its uniqueness is explained by any and all of a variety of reasons: history, size, geography, political institutions and culture. Explanations of the growth of government in Europe are not expected to fit the American experience and vice versa.”
Much came out of the American Revolution. Thomas Paine wrote (Common Sense) that America was clearly not an extension of Europe, “but a new land…(with) unlimited potential and opportunity beyond what the British mother country could offer.”
Paine supported the American republicanism position believing that “Sovereignty belonged to the people, not to a hereditary ruling class.”
Religious freedom was also a new idea across the American landscape. Most major nations at the time had state religions. Both Jefferson and Madison promoted a limit on “ecclesiastical powers” and supported a free will movement for the people to choose the religion in which they were comfortable.
Jefferson also saw America as being a guiding light and model for democracy. He believed his nation was and would remain a beacon to all people of the world.
Early on our founding fathers sensed the need to create a system of federalism, along with checks and balances among the three branches of government that would prevent any party, region or organization from becoming too powerful.
In 1955 Harvard political scientist Louis Hartz wrote and argued “…the American political tradition lacks the left wing/socialist and right-wing/aristocratic elements that dominated in most other lands.” He also pointed out that “…political conflicts in American history remained within the tight boundaries of a liberal consensus regarding private property, individual rights and representative government.”
If America is to remain the America founded and envisioned by our forefathers, we have a lot of work to do and little time in which to do it. Never before have we been challenged in the manner that is now underway.
There are many on the left and right, with growing numbers in this country, who would destroy our way of life, rewrite our Declaration of Independence and staple shut our Constitution.
We must be as resolved and determined in our efforts today as were our founding fathers.
On this July 4, I hope you will join me and others renewing our Pledge of Allegiance to this great nation.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Jimmy Terrell is retired from a career in law enforcement and is a Winder city councilman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.