According to the New World Encyclopedia, the Second Continental Congress declared independence on July 2, 1776, by passing the “Lee Resolution” presented by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776. It read in part:
“Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”
Sound familiar? Congress amended Lee’s resolution somewhat before adopting it on July 4, 1776, at Independence Hall. Did you know that John Adams thought the event should be celebrated not on July 4, but on July 2? In a letter written July 3 to his wife, he wrote:
“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.” (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142.)
Although he guessed wrong on the date, he was certainly right about the celebration!
Over the years I’ve been repeatedly impressed by the importance of resources like the American Patriot Series in keeping our national memory alive. An article in the March/April 2010 edition of History Channel Magazine confirmed the urgency I feel to ensure that the events, values, and leaders of our nation’s founding aren’t lost forever through ignorance and indifference. The findings cited in the article, titled “Who Cares About the American Revolution?” convinced me that we’re in dire danger of that happening very soon.
According to a national survey conducted by the American Revolution Center in 2009, “Americans highly value, but vastly overrate, their knowledge of the Revolutionary period.” Eighty-three percent of those tested on the underlying beliefs and freedoms established during the Revolution failed. In fact, the average score, according to the information on the Center’s Web site, was 44. That’s pretty shocking. Below are some other dismal findings from the survey.
- More Americans who took the test knew that Michael Jackson sang “Beat It” than knew that the Bill if Rights is part of the U.S. Constitution. And isn’t that just sad?
- Half of adult participants believed that the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, or the War of 1812 preceded the Revolution. From conversations with people I’ve encountered, I can attest to that!
- The same number of adults believed that the Constitution established a democracy. Hey, folks, what we have here is a republic! Our Founders specifically did NOT want a democracy, for very good reasons. You might want to research what they were.
- One third of participants had no idea the right to a jury trial is included in the Bill of Rights. Hmm . . . See point # 1 above. Obviously they don’t even know what the Bill of Rights is!
- Many Americans lack a basic understanding of the chronology, scale, duration, and human cost of the Revolution. This just makes my heart bleed.
In other words, the great sacrifices our founding generation made to secure our liberty and establish our nation have been forgotten. And if we keep on down this road, soon our liberties themselves will be forgotten. One fights to hold onto what one values. And apparently Americans today don’t value their freedoms enough to even learn what they are.
Dr. Bruce Cole, president and CEO of the American Revolution Center is quoted in the article as saying: “You can’t remember what you don’t know . . . What needs to be kept in mind is that knowledge of our nation’s founding principles is critical because it enables citizens to participate wisely in government, to understand the historical global context of our country’s origins, to embrace a diversity of ideas, and to commit to the quest for freedom and equal rights.”
Amen to that, brother!
I encourage you to check out the American Revolution Center. Plans are being made to build a Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, the first national museum dedicated to the Revolution and its enduring legacy. On the center’s Web site, you’ll find resources that include a searchable database of lesson plans, an interactive timeline, and links to more than 70 American Revolution Web sites and organizations. It also offers a survey to test your knowledge of the Revolution. I challenge you to take it.
I scored 91%, missing 2 questions, one of which related to the Constitutional era, which I admit I haven’t researched as heavily as the Revolution. The other I did the same thing many of us do on tests: I kept thinking one answer was correct (it was), but I second guessed myself and gave the answer I thought should be true (it wasn’t). Let that be a lesson to you! Go with your gut instincts. So take the test and leave a comment letting me know how you did!
Another challenge for you. Take my pop quiz below. Research any answers you’re not familiar with and tell me what you learned that you didn’t already know.
I didn’t know the American Revolution Center existed, but you can bet I’m going to get really, really familiar with it asap! I can’t wait until they build the museum they’re planning. What a resource that will be!
When and why was it created?
How many amendments are in the Bill of Rights?
Give a brief summary of each of the amendments.
Cross posted on the American Patriot Series Blog.