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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Independence Day

         When the Continental Congress declared itself officially separated from Great Britain, they appointed five men to write up a declaration of independence. Two of these men were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Thomas Jefferson was the youngest of them, and felt inadequate for the job. Jefferson, came from a wealthy family, but he was raised on the borders of civilization and was definitely a country bumpkin when he first came Williamsburg to attend the college of William and Mary. Here he learned the lawyers trade, and also was careful to pick up the finer things in life. He became accomplished in music and how to conduct himself around the gentry. He loved politics, so he was in the perfect spot. Willamsburg was the hub of politics at that time.

        Thomas Jefferson was not  a public speaker, and you can imagine him listening to the likes of Patrick Henry and the other impassioned men of the day, and feeling powerless. But he could write, so he began to use his talent in this way.  When this committee met to write up  a declaration, Mr. Adams was asked to write it. He said no, he would not. He said he was too hot headed and he shouted at people, and no one would like it if they knew it was written by him. He asked Thomas Jefferson to write it. And as we know, write it he certainly did. It flows along like poetry, like a song, crying out to the whole world about what America was thinking. He listed the wrongs and gave hints about how we, as a people could make of ourselves, with the help of God, into a great country. He wrote it all with a quill pen and an inkpot. Have you seen how beautifully the letters curve and curl over the paper? Could you write anything like that?
        The document was finished on July second, but it took two days for the Congress to hash it out, agree on it and sign it. John Adams, who wrote faithfully to his wife, Abigail when he was away from home, wrote to her that day. " "I am apt to believe that this day will be celebrated by succeeding generations as a great festival." he wrote. " It aught to be commemorated as a day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God. It aught to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, balls, bonfires, games, sports, guns, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward, forever more."
        So that was the vision of our forefathers. Lets carry the torch! Fly the flag, sing patriotic songs, read the Declaration of Independence out loud to our children. Let no one forget. Lets us all remember and rejoice, and be thankful, for this land that belongs to you and me, from sea to shining sea!

        I have been lucky enough to have been to Williamsburg where you can walk in the footsteps of these great humble men, who wanted liberty for their children. The war had already been going on for a year when independence was finally proclaimed. They knew what they were getting into, but they went ahead any way, in spite of what they knew." War is ugly, and painful and messy. It will be worth it in the end." When I stood on the street and saw the gardens and the people and the horses and the buildings, then I saw a glimpse of it all those years ago. I heard the music played by the man in the red cloak, and I heard long ago voices, of impassioned men, I saw the swirl of the dancers petticoats, and I felt the thump of feet going off to war.

       I sat by the Raleigh Tavern (here is the back of the Raleigh, and the well)  and I knew then, that those long ago men were there making plans that endure to this day. Happy Fourth of July!

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