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[Tru Blu Tuesday] A Nation Is Born


Independence Hall - Philadelphia, PA

Independence Hall – Philadelphia, PA

Allow me to tell you a story. You may have heard it before, but it bares repeating…

Two hundred thirty-seven years ago today, a middle-aged man sat in a stuffy room in Philadelphia, sweating in the oppressive July heat. The temperature could not whither his mood however, as Mr. John Adams of Massachusetts flitted his eyes across the room repeatedly. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, all ready to move forward. He thought to himself, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia on board. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware all in agreement. New York will not be able to formally join us today, not until their own convention irons itself out, but they will not oppose. This can finally happen!

Mr. Adams was excited about the vote to be taken that day on Virginian Richard Henry Lee’s resolution. It was a culmination of several months of hard

Lee's Resolution. Click to read it on ourdocuments.gov

Lee’s Resolution. Click to read it on ourdocuments.gov

work. As the war with the mother country raged on in not-to-distant battlefields, it became more and more clear to him that there was no going back to the old days. The colonies, in their defiance, had efficiently destroyed their good standing with Great Britain with each drop of blood from the king’s soldiers, and every protest of usurpation prior to the conflict. Still, it had taken some convincing over the last few months to gather his fellow rebels to his side. Many had hoped that the wounds inflicted could be healed and the colonies could reconcile with their distant aggressor. However, it became apparent to more and more of the delegation assembled at this convention, that there was no going back. Also, foreign assistance was desperately needed to combat the powerful British armies and their German mercenary cohorts. Yet it was unlikely that assistance could be garnered if other nations viewed the conflict as an internal affair of Great Britain. Sovereignty was necessary, and John Adams knew this.

That is why less than a month earlier, June 7th to be exact, Mr. Lee had introduced his resolution to the Second Continental Congress. His resolution called for a declaration of independence from the crown,  a call to form foreign alliances, and “a plan for confederation.” However, the delegates had not been approved by their respective colonies to vote for such a radical measure and they wished to return to their homes to weigh the matter with those whom they represented.

While they did so, three committees were formed to address the three different sections of Lee’s resolution. One to create a plan for confederation, one to develop a plan for forming foreign alliances and one to write a formal declaration of independence. The latter task was assigned to Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert Livingston of New York, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia and Mr. Adams. These five were given the job of putting into words the causes which impelled the colonies towards their separation from Great Britain. The world would have to know why this dysfunctional group of glorified territories felt the need to dissolve the political bands that connected them to the worlds greatest super power. And the committee had done so admirably. After developing the outline for the document the group had tried to decide who should write the first draft. At first they had pressed John Adams to do so, but he deflected the responsibility. “Long Tom” Jefferson, he knew, was a much better writer than he. Upon much insisting, the others agreed with him and Jefferson was set to the task. When Tom had returned to committee with his work, they vetted the document together. Mr Adams was glad that part was over.

Committeoffive

Yesterday, July 1st, a Monday, the congress had reconvened, having returned from their colonies. John Adams remembered how relieved he felt as most of the delegates revealed their approval of independence. In the back of his mind, there was the fear that some of the colonies would strongly oppose the measure. With limited resources available to the rebels, unity was a crucial asset. Still, despite the general agreement, some delegates voiced their concerns with the proposition. Adams did not want there to be any votes cast against the resolution, so the vote was pushed to Tuesday.

So here he sat on July 2nd, excited and nervous at the same time. The debates wound closer and closer to agreement. He did not dare gloat for fear of upsetting the progress made. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face before he wiped the perspiration off his brow. This could be it!

2ndcontinentalcongressIf Lee’s Resolution passed, it would mean a world of difference. Already considered traitors, the men who put their names in with this declaration would be direct targets of the crown. It would mean they would be alone, out from underneath the umbrella of Great Britain. They would have to fend off enemies themselves. An entirely new system of government would need to be constructed. And that assumed they would win the war in the first place, something far from certain.

Mr. Adams did not even blink at the troubling thoughts. He was too sure of this. There was no other way to move forward. It was all or nothing. The king had made his moves, had shown his true colors. They could not go back to the terms of tyranny. Not now. Not after all that had been sacrificed to get this far.

At last a vote was taken to pass Lee’s Resolution.

With twelve colonies approving and New York respectfully abstaining, the resolution passed!

John Adams slunk back into his chair and exhaled a sigh of relief. Smiling he reached across the table and shook the hand of this good colleague, Mr. Franklin. His friend Tom Jefferson gave him a hearty pat on the back. This was really happening!

The Declaration which the Committee of Five had drafted would be further edited over the next two days and ratified on the fourth. It would go on to become one of the most important documents in world history as it carried an impact even John Adams could not foresee. The waves made on that hot July day would send ripples across the globe in due time.

There was still much heartache yet to be experienced by these men and the people they represented. There are still heartaches experienced even today. Yet, just as Mr. Adams grinned in the face of imminent adversity over two hundred years ago, we can smile while under the great challenges we face today. We can carry on against all odds because we have the liberty to do so. We can achieve great things because we stand independently. We can change the world because we are FREE!

Happy Independence Day!

Liberty, according to my metaphysics is a self-determining power in an intellectual agent. It implies thought and choice and power. – John Adams

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