Let’s play a game of pretend. I want to use you to help explain why we celebrate Independence Day. Fiction is a good genre for storytelling.
Pretend Donald Trump is not our president. Instead, pretend an avid communist with an extreme ideology won the last election and that candidates with a similar bent won a majority of House and Senate seats.
Assume our new president has appointed like-thinking Supreme Court justices.
Infanticide and feticide, combined with euthanasia of the elderly and infirm have become routine under government-controlled health care for all. Undocumented immigrants make up more than half of our population under an open-border policy.
Taxation steadily increases, driving many wealthy households and thriving businesses into bankruptcy and citizens into “debtors prisons” for evading taxes. Jobs would disappear. Businesses would disappear. Big universities would declare bankruptcy and go out of business. Free speech would mean acceptable speech. Mandatory gun and ammunition registration would lurch toward confiscation.
Got the picture?
Under this nightmare scenario, what would middle-of-the-road citizens do in such a situation? Would we lose our ability to have our grievances redressed?
Though isolated, our government would continue to control our lives. Scary, huh?
Now, let’s get real. As we approach Independence Day, let’s drift back to the mid- and late-1770s.
The 13 British colonies were ideologically and physically isolated from the king’s government in England. Learned colonial men had for years presented a long list of grievances. The grievances, the tensions, the isolated governed were not addressed.
Soon, after years of neglect and growing hostility toward colonial citizens, a group of like-minded people took matters into their own hands. They were not a majority, perhaps not even a united minority regarding a course of action. But after armed hostilities had moved to the forefront in April 1775, the brave, brazen and illegal Continental Congress appointed a committee to write a document.
With that document, the Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain in July 1776. It adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4. That’s our Independence Day. It was signed between July 19 and Jan. 18, 1777, with signed copies sent to each state. This fledging country and those brave, gutsy men made history by letting “facts be submitted to a candid world.”
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence and in doing so pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor. And many paid a hefty price. Five were captured by the British, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Twelve had their homes and businesses ransacked and burned. Nine died in the Revolutionary War. Some lost sons. Many lost their livelihoods, their fortunes. Nonetheless, they signed “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”
The Declaration of Independence became the problem, not the solution to problems. These signers were lawyers, judges, merchants, tradesmen, farmers, traders, men of secure means, risking it all for liberty from an intolerable government.
South Carolina signers Thomas Heywood, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge were captured by the British and had their properties looted. Lynch later fled Charleston with his wife and was lost at sea. Rutledge eventually became governor of South Carolina. Middleton continued in politics until he died in 1787. Heywood served as a judge. In risking their lives, fortunes and honor, they brought us a new nation “conceived in liberty.”
If our earlier game of pretend became real, do such courageous men and/or women exist today? I believe they do. I believe some are around us. We pass them on the streets, we sit in classrooms with them and we live beside them. They will act.
This is why we celebrate our (Declaration of) Independence Day. This is why we celebrate and recognize our American heritage. It is part of what the United States of America was and is. It is our history. As such, every adult should read “the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America” every year on the Fourth of July. It’s a living document.
Ralph Stoney Bates is a retired U.S. Marine living in Mount Pleasant.