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Relatively Speaking: Sentiments of July 4, 1776, ring true today

June 30, 2010 at 1:30 a.m.


By Martha Jones

' 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.'

This sentence has been called by historians as "one of the best-known sentences in the English language" and "the most potent and consequential words in American history."

It greatly influenced Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy and promoted the idea that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.

Today we reflect on July 4, 1776, when our Founding Fathers met during the scorching summer days in Philadelphia to compose our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. By the time it was adopted, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. Relations between the two forces had deteriorated since the end of the Seven Years War in 1763.

On November 29, 1775, Thomas Jefferson wrote to the King of England, "Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament proposes; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America."

The British government was deeply in debt and Parliament increased taxes from the colonies demanding they pay their fair share to keep the colonies in the British Empire. However, many colonists had a different concept of the Empire and felt they were not directly represented in Parliament and argued that Parliament had no right to levy taxes upon the colonies.

Thus, their revolt was the American Revolution, the foundation of patriotic organizations, such as the Guadalupe Victoria Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution and the Victoria Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution. Many local residents trace their ancestry to patriots who defended our country against the British forces.

As stated in the American's Creed, ours is "a perfect union, one and inseparable established upon those principles of freedom, equality, justice and humanity for which American patriots sacrificed their lives and fortunes." Today as we celebrate July 4 as Independence Day, enjoy the fireworks, good food and good friends, but remember our forbearers who first made our freedom possible and the military forces who have kept us free since that first Fourth of July.

As President Woodrow Wilson said prior to WWI, "The world must be made safe for democracy. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, the most terrible of wars. But the right is more precious than the peace, and we shall fight for the things that we have always carried nearest our hearts ... for democracy ... for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free."

Happy researching and happy Fourth of July.

E-mail genealogy queries to mjones@vicad.com. VCGS members will research queries requiring extensive study.

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