While for most of us, July 5th means getting on with our lives, it meant nothing of the sort for those who founded the United States of America. The Declaration of Independence did not mean that America was suddenly free from British tyranny. It only set forth the reasons for the break from Britain. The first paragraph of the Declaration makes that very clear:
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
By the signing of the Declaration, the war had already started, with the first official engagement in Lexington Massachusetts on April 19, 1775 - known to most school children as “the shot heard round the world.” (Do kids today still learn this? I hope so!)
I love the Declaration because it’s not some fluffy piece of poetic drivel. Yes, Jefferson could have been a novelist with his dramatic flair, but the Declaration actually goes on to explicitly state the King’s crimes against his people. For example:
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Authors of English historicals can probably appreciate how radical it was to actually call the King out by name. It just wasn’t done unless you wanted to find yourself accused of treason. The signers of the Declaration were no less cognizant of that. Every one of them knew they were signing their own death sentence should the cause be lost.
Nevertheless, sign they did, putting the official stamp on America’s break from England. What followed was a long and bloody battle, more than five years of heavy fighting with Americans receiving the worst of it - as one might imagine would happen when a poorly organized military declares war against the most powerful fighting force on the globe!
My own daily struggles are feeling kind of insignificant right now.