Flags will fly today, fireworks will explode and freedom will be celebrated as Americans mark their Independence Day, the Fourth of July. For 238 years, we have marked the day with speeches, parades and all sorts of festivities — just as those who signed the Declaration of Independence thought we should.
The men who decided to break the American colonies away from Great Britain risked their fortunes and their lives to do so. They felt as though they had tried to reach an understanding with King George III and his representatives in Parliament, but their efforts had been rejected at every turn.
Americans protested a series of taxes imposed on them by a Parliament where they thought they had no voice. The special interests of the day — such as British manufacturing and tea importers — along with the need to pay for a series of wars in which Great Britain had played a part caused Parliament to turn to the colonies for revenue.
While the Americans had their supporters in Great Britain, the members of Parliament, for the most part, ignored the protests from across the Atlantic. British lawmakers thought they had plenty of support among Americans. They were wrong.
The Americans came together, formed an army — with the great fortune of choosing George Washington as its leader — and squared off against the most power nation on the planet at the time. Seven years later, they signed the treaty that created the United States of America.
From those events came one of the most remarkable documents in history, the U.S. Constitution. It’s First Amendment sums up the goals of those who led the revolution so long ago: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble; and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
As we mark today’s holiday, it would be worth taking a moment to remember the challenge, the sacrifice and the commitment to principles of freedom and individual liberty that led to a great nation. Have a happy Fourth of July!