Independence Day-Revolutions Take Courage ~ by Marj Ivancic

photo courtesy of
Tomorrow is Independence Day. It is a holiday set aside to honor the brave men and women who made our nation possible. With the cushion of 200+ years between then and now, it is easy to forget or dismiss the magnitude of what they faced in doing so. Especially the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Today, many people just see a bunch of signatures from some famous politicians on a document that has some serious flaws when viewed through modern society’s lens.

But at the time, it was THE most public act of treason, shared around the world, for which those men would most likely forfeit their lives if America’s bid for independence failed.

And yet, did they hedge their bets and wait until victory was assured before joining in? Did they ask for guarantees?


In fact, the odds of victory were anything BUT in their favor.

Success was dependent on thirteen separate, disperate colonies
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uniting against their mother country. This meant getting the men who lead those different colonies—men of unique personalities, various backgrounds, and a wide range of motivations—to agree, to set aside personal differences and work together. And perhaps more importantly, to make every effort to stay together! All it would take to crumble that united front was one wrong word, one affront left unforgiven, and the consequences would have been far reaching.

In addition, until the first Continental Congress created one, there had been no standing, experienced army. That meant no central leadership. No one person making decisions and holding others accountable. And the men filling the rank and file were farmers and tradesmen, many of whom sought to leave the army when planting and harvesting came due. Some of them had spent time in the militia or had seen battle during the French & Indian War, but many, many had not. They were not a cohesive fighting machine, drilled and practiced. The army they faced across the battlefield, however, was exactly that—experienced, organized, and ready.

Not only was the Continental army inexperienced, but it was also
photo courtesy of Encyclopaedia Brittanica
inadequately armed. The 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill is a prime example of how dire the situation was. Heading into that fight, each man of one regiment received: 1 cup of powder, 15 musket balls, and 1 flint. The Americans lost that battle. Had they had enough ammunition, they might have won. (Keep in mind, this was a full year prior to the signing of the Declaration.)

A few things did sit in the colonials’ corner: English military leaders showed a great deal of both indecision and arrogance; the mother country, i.e. the source of supplies, was an ocean away; hatred of British political, economic, social policy kept the colonial leaders and the public focused on a common enemy.

In addition, the colonials had men of character and smarts on their
photo by  Thomas Jefferson
side. Men like John Adams who, instead of being insulted that he was not chosen to draft the Declaration, said the following to the man who was selected, one Thomas Jefferson: “Reason first—You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second—I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third—You can write ten times better than I can.”

And men like George Washington, who declined to take a monthly salary when he was made Commander in Chief of the new Continental Army, saying instead he’d request a reimbursement at the end.

Perhaps it was being surrounded by the hope and courage of so
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many focused on one, single, beautiful goal that made these men willing to sign what could easily have been their death warrant. It’s hard to say. But as you’re celebrating tomorrow, enjoying the fireworks and the BBQ, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on what they risked and whether or not you’d be willing to do the same, given the same circumstances. Regardless the answer, raise a toast to them, for what they did was magnificent. Honor them, and all who gave their lives during that war, not only tomorrow but each day. We are free because of them.
  Langguth, A.J., Patriots: The Men Who Started the American Revolution, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), 277.
  Ibid., 345.
  Ibid., 291. 


  1. Thank you so much for reminding us of our history...a rich legacy we need to keep alive.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful post.



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