Essay 30 – Guest Essayist: Val Crofts

“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.”

As we reach the end of the Declaration of Independence, we see in this section that the Framers have ended the document with great care to show who they were and what this new nation was going to be. The Second Continental Congress placed many of Richard Henry Lee’s words and ideas from his resolution of independence from June 7, 1776 in this section of the Declaration during the editing portion of the document. The words that Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed were the start of our independence process and the nation that emerged from that process. The process of the Declaration began with Lee’s resolution and ended with his words included in this final paragraph.

The United States was created in this document and the members of the Second Continental Congress tell us how serious they were in creating it, as well as telling the World how they would defend it for themselves and future generations of Americans. The United States is now its own nation and can conduct itself accordingly. The signers are also letting the world know they acted with the best intentions and they appeal to God for the final verdict on those intentions. They end this conclusion of text by stating that they fully understand that if they do not succeed, they will be charged with treason and executed. They were willing to give everything so that our new nation had a chance at survival. They are giving a well thought out legal argument and an exclamation point to the end of the Declaration. Eventually, 56 delegates will sign their name to it, creating the document that we see today at the National Archives.

“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…”

Here the 56 members of Congress will declare their independence to the World and they will state than mankind will not be the final judge of their revolutionary actions, but the Supreme Judge of the world will judge their actions, the Revolutionary War, their intentions and the righteousness (rectitude) of them. They believe that they are acting selflessly and for the cause of freedom for themselves and future generations. They are also representing their colonies and the inhabitants of them by being their representatives in Philadelphia. These actions will impact the citizens as well as the Framers of the Declaration and the members of Congress are well aware of that as they conclude this document.

“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..”

The United States is its own sovereign entity. They have every right to break from Great Britain and establish themselves as their own country. The British Parliament and king had mistreated the colonists and taxed them without their consent or a voice in the British parliament. As a result, the colonies left a tyrannical and unjust government to form their own system of government that they believed was more just and conducive to their overall and future happiness. There would be no connection to the king or Parliament in the future.

“..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.”

How we will proceed as a new nation is proclaimed here. The United States will have the power of declaring war and peace, be in control of their own financial dealings and trade with other nations. They will have all the powers that nations had as they begin to forge their own path on the world stage.

“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.”

This pledge to each other at the end of the Declaration shows that the Founders trusted in each other and in God to protect them, their military forces and their new nation. They were ready to fight the most powerful army and navy in the world and they were willing to die if necessary. As Benjamin Franklin said, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” The Framers of the Declaration could not afford disunion in their ranks. If that took place, their cause could be lost. The members of Congress were unified. They promised to give their lives, their financial well-being and their honor to do what it took, even it meant losing everything dear to them. Victory was also not assured in the summer of 1776. It was, in fact, highly unlikely. These were intelligent men who had everything to lose and they accepted that possibility. Some did lose everything in their cause including their lives and fortunes.

Val Crofts serves as Chief Education and Programs Officer at the American Village in Montevallo, Alabama. Val previously taught high school U.S. History, U.S. Military History and AP U.S. Government for 19 years in Wisconsin, and was recipient of the DAR Outstanding U.S. History Teacher of the Year for the state of Wisconsin in 2019-20. Val also taught for the Wisconsin Virtual School as a social studies teacher for 9 years. He is also a proud member of the United States Semiquincentennial Commission (America 250), which is currently planning events to celebrate the 250th birthday of the Declaration of Independence.


Podcast by Maureen Quinn.

 

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