Under the closing words of this document known as America's Declaration of Independence are inscribed the names of fifty-six men who knew that their determination to see the thirteen colonies free and independent of Great Britain would levy a great price.
We hear this often: "Freedom is not free." But do we take time to actually weigh the costs of freedom and see, unfolding through the now 233 years since this document was enacted, the blood, sweat, tears and costs of liberty? I must admit that I, personally, must commandeer my thoughts toward that end and refresh my memory with the mind-boggling weight of how dearly freedom has been purchased at great cost.
John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail in 1776: "I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states; yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means."
In this present age, America is floundering. There are those who would like to rewrite history, to delete from its pages references to "the protection of Divine Providence" and other declarations of "one nation under God." We live in a period of change and insecurity. We are in an economic downslide. Our escalating national debt is phenomenal. Ordinary citizens can barely think in terms of millions of indebtedness, much less trillions. Add to financial woes the distrust from nations we once considered our allies. Then consider the multiple internal problems that grow proportionately worse as time passes. We could wallow in a terrible pit of pessimism about our beloved America.
John Adams saw "rays of light and glory" and that "the end is worth more than all the means." He did not lose a sense of vision and optimism, despite the battles and sacrifices that lay beyond the Declaration of Independence.
On this, America's birthday, the Fourth of July, it is time for Americans to draw hope from a well-spring of patriots who were willing to sacrifice. We cannot be bound by selfish motives in the never-ending battle to make freedom triumphant. It will take far more than the idea to maintain freedom. It must be a way of life.
Those who set their names as seals of promise on the Declaration did pay a high price. Five were captured by the British and tortured unmercifully before their deaths. Twelve saw their houses and property occupied by the enemy, looted or burned. Two lost sons in the fray and another had a son captured. Nine died in the war. All were true to their pledge of their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor."
Pages of history record that as the Colonial Congress signed the Declaration, "a pensive and awful silence …pervaded the house…as we were called up one by one...to subscribe what was believed by many to be our own death warrants" (from the pen of Dr. Benjamin Rush).
In this far-flung year more than two centuries after the Declaration was signed, and as we consider an uncertain future, but one that depends upon our determination to help stabilize and insure the ongoing freedoms America has enjoyed, may we take seriously that message from Thomas Payne who wrote in 1776:
"What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated."
c 2009 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 2, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.