By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
By the time you read this column, Independence Day, 2016 will be a part of history. Celebrated every year in the United States on July 4, it is one of the most important and significant dates to remember regarding America’s break with England’s rule.
John Adams, first vice-president and second president of the United States, wrote to his wife about the importance of the “Declaration of Independence.” Although Adams was thinking of the Continental Congress’ adoption of the first draft on July 2, his words can as well be applied to the panel’s adoption of the second draft on July 4, 1776, the final instrument declaring the momentous break from Britain and its hold on the colonies. A war raged years after the “Declaration” before the actual separation became a reality.
Adams wrote to Abigail that the event “will be celebrated by succeeding generation, as the great anniversary festival, it ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance with guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other…”
Along with Virginian Thomas Jefferson making up the committee charged with writing the Declaration of Independence were also John Adams of Massachusetts and Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and Robert Livingston of New York.
So, another July 4th has come and gone. Picnics, fireworks, parades, and many other patriotic events have been held. Perhaps there has been little thought about the awesome responsibility that was assumed in writing and adopting that great document, the Declaration of Independence. Signers are as follows: George Read, Caesar Rodney, Thomas McKean, George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, John Morton, Benjamin Rush, George Ross, James Smith, James Wilson, George Taylor, John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock (the first to sign), Robert Treat Paine, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Lewis Morris, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, William Floyd, Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton, Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Jefferson, George Wythe, Thomas Nelson, Jr., William Hooper, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Arthur Middleton, Thomas Lynch, Jr., Thomas Heyward, Jr., Abraham Clark, John Hart, Francis Hopkinson, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, Charles Carroll, Samuel chase, Thomas Stone and William Paca. Many of the signers suffered persecution and hardship because of their allegiance to the concept of Democracy.