Founding Fathers Blog

Independence Day – How It Happened – Part 1

June 24th, 2012

One of our great National Holidays is coming up soon–Independence Day! This year it falls on the 4th of July. Oh yeah, every year it falls on the 4th of July–that’s the day we celebrate.

Most of us remember that we celebrate this Holiday to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That magnificent inspired document by which our Founding Fathers declared that the 13 colonies of Great Britain are now free and independent states.

A new country was created!

However, it seems to me, that many of us Americans have forgotten some interesting and significant details that transpired in connection with this historic event. Some that we learned in 8th grade, and some that our teachers never got around to explaining to us. So I’m going to remind you of just a few.

The Continental Congress, made up of representatives from each of the 13 colonies, met in Philadelphia in 1776 to consider the hositilies taking place in Massachussets and now New York. You’ll recall that at the last Continental Congress, George Washington was unanimously appointed as the Commanding General of the brand new United Colonial Army.

Some of the same delegates that were present at the First Continental Congress, were appointed by their respective colonies to continue their representation. These include Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Richard Henry Lee. Notably absent were George Washington, now conducting a war, and Patrick Henry, two respected, inspiring and influential Virginians.

We know why George Washington wasn’t there. Patrick Henry was elected to return, but he declined to attend. He had been convinced by reading a pamphlet written by none other than John Adams, that the time had come to make certain that each of the colonies declared themselves independent and adopted their own new State Constitutions. Patrick Henry was determined to advance such a Constitution through the legislature, or House of Burgesses in Virginia. This he would do instead of returning to the Continental Contress. He thought John Adams was correct in his reasoning.

However, Henry knew that the Continental Congress also needed to conduct some serious business. Therefore, he convinced Richard Henry Lee, who would attend the Congress, to present a proposal, a resolution that the Colonies now declare themselves free and independent States. Lee went to Philadelphia and indeed presented this important resolution.  That proposal may not have even been raised for discussion had not Patrick Henry insisted that it be introduced by a fellow Virginian–Richard Henry Lee.

The proposal was introduced on June 7, 1776. The President of the assembly, John Hancock, could see that most of the delegates were still unsure of separation from the mother country, despite the hostilities. But they were advancing to that conclusion. As a result, the proposition was tabled until additional reasoning could be considered.  But so that as little time as possible should be lost in the event that Lee’s proposition was approved, John Hancock appointed a committee to prepare a draft of a declaration, should one be called for.

To be continued…..

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