Happy July 4th – Independence Day in America!
It’s a good time to think back to the reasons the American colonies were motivated to declare independence, and war, on Britain.
Basically, it was taxes. As the American colonies grew and flourished Britain kept imposing more and higher taxes on the colonists.
The Boston Tea Party in December of 1773 was a protest against taxes. It was also the spark that lit the fire for a desire of freedom from British rule.
That hot, humid summer of 1776 there was no unanimous agreement among the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence who came from widely different backgrounds. There were huge differences of opinions.
43 of the 56 men owned slaves. Of the remaining 13 there was a strong fervor to abolish slavery in the colonies.
Thomas Jefferson, who authored our Declaration of Independence, owned more than 600 slaves, yet he wrote “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
Women were not included in the freedoms promised. Indentured servitude was allowed.More than half of the Europeans who arrived in the colonies came as indentured servants. And slavery prevailed here for nearly 100 more years.
At first only 9 of the 13 colonies approved. South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted “no”; Delaware and New York abstained. John Adams, an anti-slavery puritan worked the hardest to get the Declaration of Independence signed. His persuasion ultimately prevailed which is why he is called “The Father of American Independence.”
But only John Hancock of Massachusetts actually signed it on July 4th. It wasn’t until August 2nd that all of the 56 men had signed. At the time Adams said “We should celebrate with Pomp and Parades and Illuminations from one end of the continent to the other.” And we have been really good about doing that!
As you celebrate this year, take a moment to think about what freedom means to you. People define freedom in many ways. The founding fathers defined it as . . .
The freedom to vote … having freely and fairly elected people running our government.
The freedom to choose … being able to do what you think is right for you as long as it doesn’t take away a freedom from another. That encompasses the right to pursue happiness; but it’s not a guarantee that you’ll have it.
The freedom from bias … the right to live without judgment based on race, religion, or personal choices.
The freedom of equality … equal access to housing, food, education, health care, justice, and opportunity. But equal access comes with equal responsibility. We are all responsible for providing for ourselves.
Equal access is not entitlement. Sadly, today many think that government should provide all those things for us instead of individuals working to provide for themselves. Right now our government is moving closer and closer to doing just that. They raise taxes and impose new taxes to fund it all.
And that takes us full circle back to 1773 and the protest against the unfairness of taxes. Today taxes in the U.S. can take up to 40% of a person’s income. And it gets higher when you add up all the taxes collected for things we buy and services we use.
Ironically, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826 just 5 hours apart. Jefferson in Virginia; Adams in Massachusetts. Jefferson was bankrupt at the time. Both had served as Presidents of the U.S. For them, being a politician was not a stepping stone to acquiring wealth like it is today.
The founding fathers gave us a framework for freedom. We need to continue building on that framework, not tear it down, if we want to protect our freedoms.
“To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”Nelson Mandela
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