Today is Independence Day.
241 years ago today the men of the Second Continental Congress declared themselves to be in open rebellion against what was then the largest and most powerful of the Western Empires. Most of us are quite familiar with the preamble of their Declaration of Independence, far fewer of their summation:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
By their signatures they also declared themselves to be guilty of Treason against the Crown. Their pledge “…to each other [of] our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” was far from empty rhetoric. As Dr. Franklin reportedly observed on July 4th, 1776 “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
They did not all manage to live long or prosperous lives, and knew the risks they faced when they signed.
The United States whose independence they proclaimed and subsequently chartered under the Articles of Confederation became our Republic on June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution.
In closing I return to Dr. Franklin, who when asked: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Words of wisdom we should all reflect upon on all days, but especially on days like today.