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The Signing of the Declaration of Independence Was A Momentous Occasion in History

As I write this column, it will be only three more days until America celebrates the Fourth of July or Independence Day as it is often called. There will be fire-works, picnics, and various patriotic activities on that day. When you read this column, the celebration will be over for another year and many folks will get back to their routine of day-to- day living. As I was thinking about a possible subject for my column, I began to wonder if many think about the significance of that special day during all the hoopla that takes place each year.
It is indeed a time for celebration. John Adams, second United States President, wrote a letter to his wife Abigail concerning his thoughts on the Declaration of Independence. The letter was dated July 3, 1776. In his letter he was referring to July 2, the day the Continental Congress approved the resolution that had been introduced by Richard Henry Lee on June 7, 1776. At the time of introduction, a committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston had been named to draft the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson did the bulk of the work with some minor input by Franklin and Adams. The Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4.
The first of the 56 men to sign the document was John Hancock. The youngest to sign was Edward Rutledge at the age of 26. The oldest man to sign was Benjamin Franklin at 70. It took courage and commitment to sign because they risked every-thing by doing so. Two future presidents signed: Tho-mas Jefferson and John Adams.
“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, wrote Adams, referring to the approval of the document, “with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward for-ever more.” President Adams also said in his letter: “Yesterday (July 2, 1776) the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater perhaps never was, nor will be, decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, that those United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.”
The adoption of the Declaration of Independence was only a beginning of sorts to a long and protracted struggle against Britain to truly gain independence. War raged on until the final battle of the Revolutionary War ended at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781. That battle began September 23, and ended when the British commander, Lord Cornwallis, surrendered to the combined American and French forces commanded by George Washington and General de Rochambeau respectively. During the time (1961-1963) I was stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia, I took the opportunity to visit York-town. To stand on the very soil on which the tyranny of the British crown was ended is an awesome feeling.
The Declaration of Independence is on display along with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, DC.
This is off the subject, but it is interesting to note that many American historians have recognized one battle as the turning point in the Revolutionary War. That battle was the Battle of Kings Mountain. The battle occurred when the men from the Watauga Settlements called Over-mountain Men gathered at Sycamore Shoals near what is now Elizabeth-ton, marched to Kings Mountain and defeated British forces under the leadership of British Major Patrick Ferguson. Major Ferguson had threatened to invade, destroy their settlements and hang their leaders. Rather than wait for Ferguson to invade, the hardy settlers opted to take it to the enemy. They did just that and were victorious.
I believe that along with the excitement and celebration of July 4, it should also be a time for deep appreciation to our founding fathers, who had the foresight and courage to shape and sign that important document, aware indeed of the possible personal cost to them. We must not forget the brave folks who fought effectively and bravely to give us freedom, not only in the Revolutionary War but in all the wars and conflicts since.