In the years that followed, Americans have looked to July 4, the date the Declaration of Independence was signed, as the nation’s birthday. This date was officially set aside as a national holiday by the United States Congress in 1941.
In recent history, July 4 has become a favorite summer holiday with parades, picnics, cookouts and fireworks. No one enjoys food and fireworks more than me, but I believe it is important to reflect upon the significance of this holiday and what some call “history’s greatest experiment in democracy.”
Who should we thank for the liberties we enjoy? Ask 10 people and you may get 10 different answers. Should we thank the Founding Fathers who drafted the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution? But we can’t forget the rag-tag Continental Army who fought against the greatest military power of that day. We also owe a lot to the immigrants who left their homes to forge a new and better life in the new world and built a new nation in the process.
There are many heroes and heroines, from George Washington to Patrick Henry, from Abraham Lincoln to Betsy Ross and Susan B. Anthony. Of course, we cannot forget the American soldiers who today stand ready to defend our freedom against tyranny and terrorism. All of these deserve our thanks.
Yet, if we could ask our Founding Fathers, we might get a different answer, one which is not too popular in this modern age of political correctness. America’s founders consistently credited the success of this fledgling nation to our Creator. It is undeniable that those who wrote the U.S. Constitution and signed the Declaration of Independence were men of deep religious convictions based in the Bible and their faith in Christ. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, nearly half (24) held seminary or Bible school degrees. Some 97 percent of them were practicing Christians and exercised their faith in public office. Their writings and speeches reveal the basis for their deliberations about freedom.
George Washington proclaimed, "It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God." On the very day the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, telling her that July 4, “ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."
The first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock, wrote, “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God.”
The chief architect of the Constitution, James Madison, wrote, “We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind to self-government … according to the Ten Commandments of God."
Thomas Jefferson, who drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence and became the nation’s third president, wrote, “God who gave us life, gave us liberty … these liberties are the Gift of God.”
Benjamin Franklin, who signed both the Declaration of Independence and Unites States Constitution wrote, "Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.”
The preamble of the Constitution says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Patrick Henry said, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”
Let’s celebrate America’s freedom this July 4 with an attitude of gratitude and take time to contemplate our nation’s past and give thanks to the source of our liberty.