01 July 2012

As We Near Independence Day

In my opinion, Independence Day is one of the most important holidays that we celebrate.  All too often, it is celebrated only as a time for fireworks, picnics, and parades.  As this year's holiday approaches, please take some time to study and reflect on just who we are as a country and how we came to be.

Below is a brief timeline of the monumental events leading to our declaration of independence from Great Britain.

Timeline of Events Leading to the Declaration of Independence

Sugar Act, 05 Apr 1764—Put a three-cent tax on foreign refined sugar and increased taxes on coffee, indigo, and certain kinds of wine. It banned importation of rum and French wines. These taxes affected only a certain part of the population, but the affected merchants were very vocal. Besides, the taxes were enacted (or raised) without the consent of the colonists. This was one of the first instances in which colonists wanted a say in how much they were taxed.

Patrick Henry's "If this be treason" speech, 29 May 1765—He was an outspoken critic of the Stamp Act and introduced seven resolutions against it to the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was the first governor of Virginia and led the fight for the adoption of the Bill of Rights. He was best known for his "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech.

Stamp Act, 09 Nov 1765—First direct British tax on American colonists. Instituted in November, 1765. Every newspaper, pamphlet, and other public and legal document had to have a Stamp, or British seal, on it.

Boston Tea Party, 16 Dec 1773—American colonists calling themselves the Sons of Liberty and disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British ships (the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver) and dumped 342 whole crates of British tea into Boston harbor.

First Continental Congress, 05 Sep 1774—Two groups of people from all over the 13 Colonies who came together to discuss liberty. The First Continental Congress was a group of 56 delegates from 12 colonies (all except Georgia) who met in Philadelphia in September of 1774. They came together to act together in response to the Intolerable Acts.

The rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes, 18 Apr 1775—Famous silversmith who rode through the countryside to warn the American colonists that the British were coming. He didn't actually make his destination because he was captured by British "Redcoats," but one of his companions, Dr. Samuel Prescott, got the message through. When the British arrived, the Americans were ready.

Lexington and Concord, 19 Apr 1775—First shots fired between American and British troops, on April 19, 1775. The British chose to march to Concord because it was an arms depot where the Americans had stockpiled weapons. British troops had occupied Boston and were marching on Concord as they passed through Lexington.
The Battle at Concord Bridge
Note:  For an outstanding study of the people and events leading up to and surrounding the Battle of Lexington and Concord, consider reading "Paul Revere's Ride" by David Hackett Fischer.

Capturing of Fort Ticonderoga, 10 May 1775—New York fort on the western shore of Lake Champlain that was originally a French fort, called Carillion, that was seized by the British in the French and Indian War. The fort was later captured by the Americans in their first "official" victory of the Revolutionary War.

Second Continental Congress, 10 May 1775—The Second Continental Congress met in 1775, when the Revolutionary war had started. Things were going badly, and the armed forces were disorganized. The Continental Congress created the Continental Army and named George Washington as commander-in-chief. The Congress continued through the summer. Out of the discussions came the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Marines Corps.

Washington named Commander and Chief, 15 Jun 1775—First president of the United States, he also fought (for the British) in the French and Indian War and was the commanding officer of the victorious American forces in the Revolutionary War. He was named president of the Constitutional Convention. He served two terms as president, during which he invented the Presidential Cabinet and tried to calm the bickering between the two new political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.

Battle of Bunker Hill, 16 Jun 1775—Two-day engagement between British forces under the command of General William Howe and American forces under Colonel William Prescott. The Americans had occupied Breed's Hill in Charlestown on June 16, 1775, in order to protect the shipyard of nearby Boston.

Thomas Payne writes "Common Sense", 15 Jan 1776—Thomas Paine began work on Common Sense in late 1775 under the working title of Plain Truth. With the help of Benjamin Rush, who suggested the title Common Sense and helped edit and publish, Paine developed his ideas into a forty-eight page pamphlet. Paine published Common Sense anonymously because of its treasonous content. Printed and sold by R. Bell, Third Street, Philadelphia, it sold as many as 120,000 copies in the first three months, 500,000 in the first year, and went through twenty-five printings.

Declaration of Independence is adopted, 4 Jul 1776—Document declaring the 13 American Colonies independent from Great Britain. Written by Thomas Jefferson and declared in effect by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Many prominent Americans signed it, including John Hancock, John Adams, and Samuel Adams. Great Britain's response was to continue the war.
The famous painting by John Trumbull depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Our founding document.

 "Went to church and fasted all day."--George Washington, 01 June 1774, diary entry, after hearing of a blockade at Boston Harbor

Later, he would write:

"The Citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as the sole Lords and Proprietors of a vast Tract of Continent, comprehending all the various soils and climates of the World, and abounding with all the necessaries and conveniencies of life, are now by the late satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of absolute freedom and Independency; They are, from this period, to be considered as the Actors on a most conspicuous Theatre, which seems to be peculiarly designated by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity; Here, they are not only surrounded with every thing which can contribute to the completion of private and domestic enjoyment, but Heaven has crowned all its other blessings, by giving a fairer opportunity for political happiness, than any other Nation has ever been favored with. Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly, than a recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and circumstances, under which our Republic assumed its rank among the Nations." - George Washington, Circular to the States, 8 June 1783

God Bless America!

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