Our Day of Deliverance

by Derrick G. Jeter

Freedom is not for the fainthearted. Our Founding Fathers grasped this simple truth when, on July 2, 1776, they voted to declare independence from Great Britain and committed high treason. Over the course of that summer, when the delegates signed the Declaration of Independence, all thought what Benjamin Franklin voiced, “We must . . . all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Hang together they did—through eight years of bloodletting—to secure what was just a dream, a hope, a prayer: American liberty.

In the euphoria of voting independence, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail, a prophetic vision and hope that has endured for 231 years.

The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

Missing the time of celebration by two days—the final language of the Declaration of Independence wasn’t approved until July 4, 1776, when it was signed by the President, John Hancock, and Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thomson—Adams, nonetheless, captured the spirit for our national birthday.

On this Fourth of July, we’ll follow Adams’s words, as we have for 231 years, with “pomp and parade . . . and illuminations.” But perhaps, in the midst of wishing America another Happy Birthday, we should also heed Adams’s admonition and find a quiet moment to perform “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty” for our “Day of Deliverance.”

I might suggest one other way to honor Independence Day. Take some time to read the Declaration with family and friends. You might even want to print off a copy and pledge, with your signature, along with the fifty-six original signers, your life, fortune, and sacred honor.

Benjamin Franklin quote: Jared Sparks, Life of Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), 313.

John Adams quote: Adams Family Correspondence, L. H. Butterfield, ed., II, 30, quoted in David McCullough, John Adams (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001), 130.