“We are in the very midst of a revolution, the most complete, unexpected and remarkable of any in the history of nations.”
Declaration of Independence
As Americans, we know July 4th, 1776 as the day our Declaration of Independence was signed by delegates in Philadelphia. July 4th may be the day we celebrate and remember, but what occurred five days later was equally important, perhaps more important from a practical standpoint–it invigorated the Colonists with renewed purpose.
Prior to our formal separation from the Crown, the colonists were fighting for a different cause. They were fighting for defense. Occupation by the British military was viewed as a sign of invasion to be repelled.
“We are soldiers who devote ourselves to arms not for the invasion of other countries but for the defense of our own, not for the gratification of our own private interest, but for the public security.”
-Nathanael Greene, letter to Samuel Ward
July 9th, 1776
Five days after the Declaration was signed, General George Washington marched his men onto the Commons to hear it read aloud. It gave new life to the fight for Independence from the monarchy of Britain. The Colonists were no longer fighting for just self-preservation and security. They were fighting for a cause greater than ever before. They were tearing down the political status quo.
The Declaration made clear that our rights are not granted by the State. They are natural rights, inherent and inalienable.
After the reading, soldiers and townspeople in the square marched to Bowling Green. There, they tore down a lead statue of King George III using ropes and bars. It was later reported that the lead from the statue was melted down for bullets.
Impact of the Declaration and American Revolution
Without the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and later, the Constitution, the world would be a very different place. Prior to the American Revolution, citizens had obligations to the State. They were not free, they were not self-governed. Their rights were granted to them by the authority of the State.
America changed this. It began solidifying the mindset that the people are in charge, not the State. It proved that anything is possible. It was used and continues to be used as a beacon of hope.
“The future happiness or misery of a great proportion of the human race is at stake–and if we make a wrong choice, ourselves and our posterity must be wretched. Wrong choice! There can be but one choice consistent with the character of a people possessing the least degree of reason. And that is to separate–to separate from that people who from a total dissolution of virtue among them must be our enemies–an event which I de[v]outly pray may soon take place; and let it be as soon as may be.”
-Henry Knox, in a letter to John Adams, roughly two weeks before the Declaration was signed.
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David McCullough’s 1776 is a great introduction to the American Revolution. It doesn’t go very in-depth, but it is written in a way that is accessible and enjoyable to almost any reader. Essential for anyone interested in the Revolution.
Brian Kilmeade’s George Washington’s Secret Six explores the spy efforts that contributed to the American Revolution. Many of the principles employed by Washington are still used today. Reads like a novel.