Happy Independence Day!
Rogers, Arkansas, July 4, 2014
In July 1776, George Washington was preparing for the defense of New York City. British vessels filled the harbor, and the apprehension was palpable. A communication sent by Continental Congress President John Hancock and dated July 6, 1776, arrived at the general’s headquarters. The letter instructed Washington to share the contents of an enclosed document with the men under his command. He was eager to comply. At 6 p.m. on July 9th, the Continental Army assembled according to Washington’s orders. It was here that the men who took up arms first heard the words that continue to reverberate through time and history – “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”
They heard the words. The Declaration of Independence was preserved for posterity in written form and transmitted as such throughout the colonies, both in printed broadsides and in newspapers; however, it was the public reading of these words that heightened patriotic passions. Washington assembled the men indicating that, “…the declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds and reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice.” He reported back the following day that, “Agreeable to the request of Congress I caused the Declaration to be proclaimed before all the Army under my immediate Command, and have the pleasure to inform them, that the measure seemed to have their most hearty assent; the Expressions and behaviour both of Officers and Men testifying their warmest approbation of it.” Patriots in towns up and down the east coast experienced the full force of the measure when it was read aloud. After the citizens of New York City heard the Declaration of Independence read, they proceeded to tear down a statue of King George III. Similar displays of patriotic fervor followed readings of the Declaration of Independence throughout the states.
Today, when we observe the Fourth of July, the warm summer breeze is filled with the sound of bands playing in parades, burgers and hot dogs crackling on the grill, and fireworks exploding in the night sky. In the spirit of 1776, I encourage you to add a reading of the Declaration of Independence to those sounds that accompany your celebration with friends and family. While the original document may be on display behind glass at the National Archives, the ideas expressed were never meant to be encased. They are living, inspirational words meant to be declared. They were penned to be heard.
Happy 238th Birthday to the United States of America!
From the Front...
Congressman Steve Womack