Peter Takes on History
June 7, 1776
The Resolution of Independence
I want to talk about an important little document, a milestone in the quest for American independence. Penned by a Founding Father and introduced to the Second Continental Congress, it said the original thirteen colonies, “... are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown.” I am, of course, talking about the Resolution of Independence.
Wait, did I day the Resolution of Independence? Why yes, I did, because that was what it’s called.
See, in 1775 the population of the colonies was about one third revolutionaries, one third loyalists and one third people who were neutral or at least undecided. But, they were united in feeling that if they’re going to do any boycotting or petitioning the crown, they’d be smart to work together. So, a First Continental Congress was called. And they got some stuff done; drew up a list of grievances, petitioned the King and, importantly, said, “Hey, this was fun. Let’s do a Second Continental Congress next year.”
Now, in the meantime, the King, who wasn’t in the mood to be petitioned, sent a guy named General Thomas Gage to America to confiscate colonial weapons and rough up some dissidents. He starts in Massachusetts where you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a dissident. That leads to the whole Lexington and Concord thing, technically the first shot of the revolution, in April 1775.
Suddenly the Colonists are like, “Whoa! We’re poking at a Superpower! Let’s get that Second Continental Congress together and talk it through.”
Now, the members of the Second Continental Congress, the folks we’ve come to call our “Founding Fathers,” were smart guys, good guys; but not necessarily a perfect cross-section of the people they were representing. The guys who could just drop everything and run off to a convention in Virginia were gentleman farmers, old-money elite, rebellious types, rigorous thinkers and whiz kids who’d made their fortunes early. Bottom line, the Second Continental Congress skewed revolutionary. Right after the gavel we hear from the landed gentry; a prominent Virginian named Richard Henry Lee.
On this day, June 7th, 1776 Lee introduced the Resolution of Independence! Resolved; All political connection with Great Britain, “is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” John Adams seconded.
Some representatives were like, “Here, here.” But others were like, “Dude, slow it down!” New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina - six of thirteen originals - were not convinced. They knew there would be consequences! A messy war. Loss of commercial markets. And the colonies would lose the protection of the most powerful army and navy in the world! That’s not nothing. So, the delegates decided to take a break; talk it over, maybe powwow with some people back home and vote again on July 1st.
So here’s the Resolution of Independence ought to be remembered. Same reason some days at work should be forgotten. Meetings!
Four days later, on June 11th, Congress named a committee "to prepare a declaration."
June 12, Congress appointed 13 members to "prepare and digest the form of a confederation" - in other words “write a constitution.” And they appointed five other members to "prepare a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers" ‘cause that’s what countries do.
Those three committees did the work that needed to be done before setting up The United States. And when the Resolution of Independence was finally passed on July 2nd, America was ready to launch.
That day John Adams wrote to Abigail about the importance of July 2nd saying, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary … with pomp and parade, with … bells, bonfires, and illuminations … from this time forward forever more.”
So, I know it’s a little early but I just want to wish you all a happy 2nd of July! Don’t drink and drive. And be careful with those sparklers.