This is an abridgment of President Gerald Ford's 1976 Independence Day Proclamation, edited for space.
Mark Trout, web master for the Ocala Coin Club
The American Revolution was unique and remains unique in that it was fought in the name of the law as well as liberty. At the start, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed the divine source of individual rights and the purpose of human government as Americans understood it.
We have heard much, though we cannot hear it too often, about 56 Americans who cast their votes and later signed their names to Thomas Jefferson’s ringing declaration of equality and freedom.
Do you know what price the signers of that parchment paid for their patriotism? John Hancock of Massachusetts was one of the wealthiest men who came to Philadelphia. Later, as he stood outside Boston and watched the enemy sweep by, he said, “Burn, Boston, though it makes John Hancock a beggar.”
Altogether, of the 56 men who signed our great Declaration, 5 were taken prisoner, 12 had their homes sacked, 2 lost their sons, 9 died in the war itself. Those men knew what they were doing. In the final stirring words of the Declaration, they pledged to one another “our lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” And when liberty was at stake, they were willing to pay the price.
We owe a great debt to these founders. It is important to remember that final success in that struggle for independence, as in the many struggles that have followed, was due to the strength and support of ordinary men and women who were motivated by three powerful impulses — personal freedom, self-government, and national unity.
Six signers of the Declaration came back to forge the Constitution, including the sage of Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson was the Ambassador to Paris. The young genius of the Constitutional Convention was another Virginian, James Madison. The hero of the Revolution, Washington, was called back from Mount Vernon to preside. Seldom in history have the men who made a revolution seen it through, but the United States was fortunate. The result of their deliberations and compromises was our Constitution, which William Gladstone, a great British Prime Minister, called “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
The Constitution was created to make the promise of the Declaration come true. The Declaration was not a protest against government but against the excesses of government. It prescribed the proper role of government to secure the rights of individuals and to affect their safety and their happiness. In modern society, no individual can do this all alone, so government is not necessarily evil but a necessary good.
Those fierce political rivals — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — in their later years carried out a warm correspondence. Both died on the Fourth of July of 1826, having lived to see the handiwork of their finest hour endure a full 50 years. They had seen the Declaration’s clear call for human liberty and equality arouse the hopes of all mankind. Jefferson wrote to Adams that “even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and libraries of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore life [light] and liberty to them.”
The American adventure began with a firm reliance on the protection of God and continues in a common conviction that the source of our blessings is a loving God, in whom we trust. As we celebrate another Independence Day, may we remember whom to thank. God bless America.
An Independence Day Address