It is often forgotten or never reflected upon by most that our nation did not start with the Declaration of Independence. If you did a survey of the “man on the street” no doubt a vast majority would assume that the Declaration was the beginning of our revolution. The facts are that the Colonies had rebelled and were committing acts of treason for 15 months before the Declaration was issued. The rebellion began in the spring of 1775 with the firefights at Lexington and Concord and then those battles were followed by the siege and seizure of Boston by a British naval and army force that summer. That was the time and place for the battle at Bunker Hill. Th Brits were in firm and complete control of Boston and were strangling commerce and intimidating in an effort to quell the rebellion.
It was during this time that the Continental Congress appointed George Washington commander of the rebel army and he was finally successful in extracting the British from Boston months later when he got the cannons from fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York and brought them to the heights overlooking Boston and its harbor. Their force and navy was exposed to destruction from them and to take them seemed imprudent with the forces at hand so they changed strategy and took their fleet and army to New York. Washington and the army followed by land and encamped in New York City for a while but the British arrived in the summer of 1776 and drove out our Continental Army after several short but brutal battles. Washington himself was almost killed where the public library of New York City is located today. Just before the battles for Long Island and Manhattan the Declaration was made but the outlook in New York was grime. Our army was on the run but intact as a fighting force although severely diminished in capacity. Washington was retreated toward Philadelphia were the Congress was still in session after the Declaration. The British view and that of the Tories was that they were about to teach the rebel upstarts a real lesson in power and the consequences of rebellion. The prospects for a successful rebellion were not very bright at that time. Overtures had been made to the British for an amelioration of the laws and practices deemed most onerous to the Colonies but all such Petitions (and they were just that, appeals) were rebuffed. That was the general background of circumstances as the summer of 1776 passed mid summer’s day. We had been fighting and that certainly is rebelling for over 15 months but no formal position had been taken. At this dark hour the Congress felt it necessary and appropriate to state the case of the Colonies to Britain and the world at large.
It is worthy of note that the Preamble and the Close but reference God and invoke His blessing. “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them” (preamble) and then in that great peroration “We therefore ….appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World……with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our Sacred Honor.” Failure meant hanging at best. Another example of that old bromide about there being no atheists in foxholes.
The Declaration laid out over 25 specifics charges or justifications for the rebellion and the declaration to be independent. Sadly those reasons are rarely discussed today but they may resonate with a reading anew. A few that may bear on the events of our day–
“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” He wouldn’t follow the existing law of the land but viewed himself as beyond or above the law.
“He has forbidden His governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance unless suspended in their operation until His assent should be obtained,and when so suspended,and when so suspended he has utterly neglected to attend to them”. Again the King wouldn’t enforce the laws authorized by the legislatures created by the Charters of the Colonies.
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our People and eat out their substance”. Hello, CFPB, EPA, IRS and the endless list.
“For depriving us, in many cases of the right of Trial By Jury” Drone attacks on US citizens by the decree of the President alone.
“For suspending our Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with the power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever” I have a pen and a phone.
And one on the allegation that the King was not enforcing the immigration laws pertaining to the Colonies; it is too long to quote here. Are we currently dealing with a tyrannical Executive that refuses to faithfully execute the Laws of the land regarding immigration?
A few years later we established the US with our Constitution. A singular document for the principles it proclaimed. All prior governments from recorded time were based one way or anther on the assumption that every man owed fealty to someone over him; be it baron, knight, king, emperor, sultan or other liege lord. Our new loyalties were to principles set in law and formalized with a contract between the governed and the government setting out limited powers of the government and the rights of the people. Truly and unheard of relationship prior to that time. Read the Constitution again, it is quite short, remember you are a party to that contract. At least as long as we remain a country of laws and not of the whims, prejudices and preferences of men.
“For pride was not made for man, only as a tormentor” John Adams, second President. http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com