Clay Olsen | July 4th, 2013
“Objects of the most Stupendous Magnitude, Measures in which the Lives and Liberties of Millions, born and unborn are most essentially interested and now before Us. We are in the very midst of a Revolution, the most [complete], unexpected, and remarkable of any in the History of Nations.”
– John Adams
By the late 18th century, the British colonies in North America were becoming frustrated with Great Britain’s growing control and incessant taxes. The epicenter of these feelings was undoubtedly in the colony of Massachusetts, in a town called Boston. Tensions were high due to events like the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the implementation of the Coercive Act. Out of the furnace of Boston came John Adams. The firsthand experience of the imperialism of Great Britain had given him a clear view of what all thirteen colonies were likely to face if they did not comply. Adams believed that the continuous addition of taxes was a plot by the British to enslave the colonists. He would become a major role throughout the revolution, including a key member of the Continental Congress. The first meeting of the Continental Congress occurred after the Coercive Act was brought to the colonies. It was here that grievances and petitions to King George III began. War with Britain was generally accepted to be a last resort if it was even a consideration on the table. However, about eight months later in April of 1775, the first shot was fired and war was on the horizon.
As Great Britain rallied her fleets at home, petitions were continually sent from the colonies to the crown. The British government felt that the colonists needed to be taught a lesson through power and force in order for there to be peace again. So as the British were building up an army to hastily crush the rebellion, the Continental Congress met again to discuss the reality of declaring independence. The choices were quite simple at this point: bend the knee to the British and ask for forgiveness or fight for independence. It was not a question as to which path was easier, but as to which path was right.
A committee was formed of five men (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Livingston, and Sherman) to draft a declaration of independence that would lay out the case for why the colonists were rebelling. The document was not a grievance that there were not enough regulations on the colonies. It was not a complaint that the rich colonists got to keep too much of their money. And it was not an objection that the British government did not have enough control over their lives. Instead, this was a document claiming that a government thousands of miles away, with no relationship to the governed, was unsuitable to a people with God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The document was a cry against big government and taxation without representation. And it was a call for the transfer of powers from the state to the individual. The document was debated and edited. It was finally agreed upon on July 4th 1776 and sent out to the world as the Declaration of Independence.
The American Revolution was a revolution that called upon ordinary men in order to succeed. Thomas Paine, a simple tailor, wrote the very famous pamphlet known as Common Sense. Paine was not a wealthy man; he was not involved in politics or law, but he had the ability to explain revolutionary ideas in plain English. People came to love the pamphlet that he wrote in which he claimed, “an island cannot rule a continent.” Three months after its publication, 150,000 copies of Common Sense were circulating the colonies. Support for what was now being called “The Cause” was on the rise.
Inexperience seemed to be the one thing the Continental Army was well supplied with. Colonial soldiers were mostly militia while the British force consisted of a professional army and navy as well as mercenaries. The average British solider was 28 years old with seven years of experience while the average colonial solider was 20 years old with six months of experience (if any at all). The British attack force closing in on the colonies was larger than the population of Philadelphia, the most populace colonial city at the time. Try to imagine the army of colonists, made up of men ages 15 and up, marching towards New York to face one of the most powerful militaries at the time and a navy that was unmatched by any other. Perhaps the biggest advantage that the Continental Army had over the redcoats was their spirit. The British soldiers and mercenaries fought for a paycheck. Colonists fought for Liberty, for themselves and also for generations to come, for you and for me.
The hunger for independence would soon be satisfied because of the brave Americans that gave their lives for “The Cause;” because they believed that a people should not be bullied by their government, especially one in which they had no representation in. On Independence Day we remember this sacrifice, but may we never forget the responsibility that a representative government has given every citizen: to voice their beliefs and keep the government accountable so that our nation does not become a continent ruled by an island of bureaucrats. Our country was founded on trust in the individual, the governed, rather than the government. In a time of need, the cry of Liberty called not only upon men of great power, but also on those from humble walks of life. Thomas Paine, a tailor, was able to influence a nation. May we as Americans never accept the proposition that we are merely numbers in a pool of statistics. We each have the power to positively affect our nation in many different ways. Our country was founded by brave individuals who were willing to give up their lives for the freedom of their family and of their fellow countrymen. Our armed forces today show us that we continue to be a nation of courageous individuals. We are a land of the free because of the brave men and women that volunteer to protect our nation. May we never forget our history and may God continue to bless the United States of America.