To whom and/or what would you pledge “my life, my fortune, my sacred honor,” knowing you were very likely to lose the first two? That is what the signers of the Declaration of independence pledged. They risked everything.
It was not until I was studying American History in college that I was confronted in a school setting with the sober reality of what those men actually took upon themselves. Failure of the revolution, or capture before it’s conclusion, would have, without doubt, meant the loss of fortune, most likely loss of freedom and in that case probably life under the harshest of conditions, and, for some of the more well-known, certain death.
They were an eclectic group, some statesmen, some less than statesman-like. Just as most of the groups of activists with whom we might associate today, not everyone who wants the same things as you is someone with whom you would willingly associate under other conditions. Regardless of their motivation, all were there representing their various localities. All took the vow, and all took the risk. Some rose to great heights and are remembered.
Some but not all were the “rich, white men” who are currently disparaged. Those rich, white men had more to lose than most colonists by defying the powerful British king. They took that risk of loss for us.
So, today, let us celebrate the birth of our nation with, as John Adams bid us, “…a shooting of guns, and explosion of fireworks…”. Amidst the parades and barbecues and flag waving, let us also remember that freedom is not free.
We are able to do and say what we will on this lovely summer day, because well over 200 years ago, 54 brave men put their names on a piece of parchment and, risking everything they had, set our country on this incredible journey. A nation described by Abraham Lincoln four score and 7 years later, as “….conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….” Since that time, thousands have given their lives to continue to prove that a “…nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”
Raise high your flags! Ooh and aah at the fireworks! Remember how you came to be free.