J u l y 4 t h.
by: David Antion
July 4th. is Declaration Day, which honors the Declaration of Independence.
The state which gave us the most religious freedom was the state of Massachusetts. The state of Massachusetts is the home of most of the religious freedom and guess who wanted that more than almost anybody? Sabbath keepers. They came and were very happy to be in a country where their religious views were not persecuted, where they didn't have to pay taxes to support a state religion. They came to this country, and in the early days, of course, most of them were British. Some of the people who came were Germans and others, but mostly they came from the British Isles.
Eventually 13 colonies formed and each colony had its own governmental structure, but they tended to band together somewhat, and they were all subject to the British Empire.
Paul Revere and The Red Coats
Many people make this mistake when they think of Paul Revere. They think that Paul Revere road through the streets of Boston, yelling "The British are coming, the British are coming." He did not say "The British are coming." He was British. He said, "The Red Coats are coming! The Red Coats are coming!"
The Red Coats were the army, that Britain sent to enforce their law. The people grew to be very rebellious about some of those laws. They were unfair. They were taking things from the people. The King told the Redcoats, the Army, "Live off the land. Go in and help yourself to the people's goods. Tell them that you want their cow and their chickens and you want their milk, we want this and we are going to take it for the army. You are subjects of the British Empire."
So that's what they did, and as the colonies prospered, the taxes went up. Britain wanted more and more from the colonies in taxes to support the armies. The list of abuses just became enormous.
From the Pilgrims' time in the 1600s all the way into the 1700s, is when these things began to rise in crescendo as the offenses and the people were very upset. It continued until the people couldn't take it any longer.
When they first came over here, the British people established a college, connected to the churches. Churches for so long a time, were the fundamental areas of learning. Why were churches places of learning, because of the Bible. Because churches, Christianity and Judaism, were the people of the Book. They studied the Book. They read, they had to learn in order to have an understanding of the Scriptures, so they continue to read.
So in America, the first college that was started was a little college called Harvard College. The people went there to learn. They learned on the British system. Here's the British system, "Here is this book, you will memorize the pages, from page 16 to 32 and on Monday everyone will recite the pages from 16 to 32." So people came to school and they had to memorize what this book said.
There was a very strong teaching in language, very strong teaching in arithmetic. You had to learn math. Everybody learned how to spell and everybody learned how to speak. They learned about grammar. The English system of teaching lasted all through those times all the way up into the 1800s.
In the 1800s, some of the scholars, teachers, professors toured Europe, and they went into Germany into the institutions of higher learning and they were shocked and stunned. The professors didn't assign parts of a book to memorize and quote it. They had to listen to the professor who came in and he lectured. They had a book that they were to read, but they didn't have to memorize anything and quote it. They had academic freedom. They had tenure. The idea was that the professor sought truth above all things, even if it went contrary to the church or the institution that founded the college. This was the German way of teaching.
Well, these scholars, teachers and professors came back from Germany and said, "The German style of teaching is superior to the way we are doing it. All we are doing is having people memorize certain parts of a book." So they went to lecturing. Scholars studied extra things and brought in extra teaching.
However, in the 1700s, people went to Harvard College. There was one guy during those early times who got up in Harvard College and he got expelled. His name was Amos Dunbar. He got up and he said, "The butter stinketh," and they threw him out. He was not allowed to attend Harvard College. His grandson did attend, however. His grandson became one of Harvard's most famous people. His name was Henry David Thoreau and he wrote 'Walden' and some other things, but Amos Dunbar was thrown out for such a rebellious statement as "The butter stinketh."
John Adams was a graduate of Harvard College. John Adams was a farmer and also a lawyer. He was part of a group of people sent from various colonies, but they established a Congress, representatives of the various colonies. By 1775, things had become so bad that gunshots broke out in Lexington and Concorde and also you had the fighting in the battle of Bunker Hill. The war had actually started before the "Declaration of Independence" was ever done. We were already at war with Britain, the Minutemen were fighting them. Troops from Pennsylvania joined in, they came to Boston to fight.
Now Pennsylvania was considered the wild West. It was considered the far West. In fact, John Adams' wife, Abigail, had never been out of Massachusetts and when John Adams left to go to Philadelphia, where they were all going to meet to consider what they should do, the war had started. The Congress of the colonies decided to have George Washington lead the Army. He would be the general of the armies. He had defeat after defeat at the first part of the war.
The British took over New York. The British had the guns. John Adams' wife wrote to him and said, "We hear every day these gun cannons going off." She said, "It is very unnerving, all day long and you hear these guns and cannons." He told her, "If they come down your way, run into the woods, there is safety in the woods."
It was a difficult time. John Adams had to make his trip from the Boston area to Philadelphia. There were not any highways. There were trails. There were only little roads. They were all dirt. He had a horse and it would be pouring down rain. Everything was wet, his horse is wet, and the road was wet and muddy. It takes two or three days to get from Boston to Philadelphia. There were no trains. There were no roads. There were no superhighways.
Colonies Needed a Declaration
John Adams made it to Philadelphia where they discussed, "What are we going to do? We are already at war." They decided they needed some form of declaration. They needed some way in which they were going to say what would be done.
John Adams was the prime mover. He was the shaker and the mover for the "Declaration of Independence," pushing all of these various states, and their representatives, pushing them to commit to doing it.
When they met, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, there were 56 of them, representatives from the various colonies. You would think they just came in and it just happened, but they had to argue and talk and negotiate. Already in 1775, the war had broken out. They were shooting, and here came the redcoats and they would put down any rebellion. The people were sick and tired of being oppressed and so they rebelled.
There were arguments over what are we going to do? Are we really going to fight Britain? Aren't we really going to try to do something else?
John Adams was the number one spokesman. He pushed it hard. "We need to do this!" He was persuading everyone. He himself said, "I talk to much. I wish I didn't talk so much, but I do talk to much." He was very outspoken, very vigorous.
Who was John Adams? He became the second president of the United States. He was short about 5 feet seven, stocky, vigorous and strong. He would tell the people, "Let's do this! Let's sign this Declaration of Independence. Let's declare our independence. Let's break away from Britain."
They had to consider it. "If we sign this, we are putting our names on this. They will find out where our farms are, where our address is, where we live and that is going to put us in mortal danger. We are now going to be enemies of the state, enemies of Great Britain and the Redcoats are going to try to seek us out."
Now you know that as soon as it was signed many of them were not long to survive. Five of them were captured by the British and tortured before they died and 12 had their homes burned from Rhode Island to Charleston, sacked and looted, and occupied by the enemy and burned.
So immediately Great Britain struck at these people who signed this declaration.
They went back and forth on this declaration and somebody said to John Adams, "John, why don't you write it." John said, "I don't want to write it because I'm too blunt. We need somebody that's got some finesse, some way with words, and much more gentlemanly. Let's bring in our friend and member of the Congress, but he doesn't often attend. Let's get him down from his wonderful place in Virginia. Yes, get him out of Monticello and bring him here to Philadelphia."
So here came Thomas Jefferson. While John Adams was short and stocky, Thomas Jefferson was tall, lanky and thin. They said he looked marvelous on a horse and he could ride a horse really well. He was about seven or eight years younger than John Adam and looked to John Adams as a mentor for the most part, soft-spoken, easy-going, relaxed and never fiery. He was very thoughtful about things.
One of the things that John Adams had noticed about Thomas Jefferson was that he kept meticulous notes about all of his experiments. He loved to do experiments.
How many of you have ever been to Monticello and seen his house? When you go in you will see a big clock on the wall, that Jefferson invented and made. It shows the rising of the moon and so on. He figured all of that out. It's incredible what he knew, so much so, that John F. Kennedy said to his group of advisors, "This is probably the most intelligence that has ever been here sitting in this White House, except when Thomas Jefferson was sitting here by himself."
They told Thomas Jefferson that he had to write the declaration. "We have to find some way of writing this in a nice way, of putting it out." He did so, he wrote long parts of it. The committee then accepted Thomas Jefferson to do so. After it was written, they sent it to Congress, to the rest of the committee, to edit it. They took out words here and words there.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable." That is what he put, but the committee thought all of his writings were too wordy. So they changed it to, "We hold these truths to be self-evident."
Thomas Jefferson later commented that, "Congress has mangled my treatise," but he went along with it because they all had to vote on it.
They all voted on the Declaration and they declared themselves then to be, independent and sovereign states, but united together, so it was called the United States. When you refer to the country, you always referred to it in the plural, "The United States are going to do this. These United States are going to do that." It was plurality of colonies where each state was a separate independent sovereign state with its own government so now they were all declaring together that they were going to now be no longer a part of the British Empire. They were going to be called the United States of America.
They finally came to a resolution and they pushed the Declaration of Independence and it was unanimously approved on July 2, 1776. It was not announced until July 4, 1776, but it had already been unanimously approved, the document had been completely done. Everything was finished on July 2. For years John Adams used to argue that "The birthday of the United States of America should have been July 2nd., not July 4th." July 4th. was the day that they announced it all, but it was not the day that it was finalized.
Interestingly enough about the document, the Declaration of Independence, nowhere from the top of it, to the bottom of it uses the phrase "Declaration of Independence." That phrase does not occur at all in that document. We have put it on there, but it was never used.
Did people call it the "Declaration of Independence?" Yes they did, but it was never used in the document itself.
If you want to read the "Declaration of Independence," I would say that most students, graduate students from high school, would be hard-pressed to understand a lot of the words, but the English is very well done, the words flow very well. You would be well advised to read it and to read out loud, if you want to get a good idea of how to speak wel.
This is how it is written: "In Congress July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen states of the United States of America."
As I said, from 1776 until 1866, it was always the plural verb used with United States. United States are, the United States they will do, the United States we will do, not United States it will do. The United States are, because it was the United all the states.
"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen states of the United States of America."
This is how Thomas Jefferson and those who edited it wrote the preamble as it is called.
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
"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."
Now they fought and argued over the phrase "pursuit of what," originally it was the "pursuit of property" that was the original statement. The pursuit of property of 'gain.' You had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of material gain and property, but they finally changed it to the pursuit of happiness.
"--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men."
What is government for as they viewed it? A government is for one reason, so that people can secure these rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Notice that they didn't say, "life, liberty and happiness." because nobody can guarantee happiness," they can only guarantee that you are allowed to pursue it. Nobody can make you happy. You can pursue it and sometimes you pursue it and you don't always get happy. Someone said a great quote, "There are two great tragedies in life. One is not getting what you want and the other is getting it."
"--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
Abuses Of The King
They then go on to list the list of abuses what the King has refused to do, how he interfered with their taxes, interfered with their laws, and their justice system. How he had appointed people who don't know what they're doing over them and has made their lives miserable, how he had taken their property, how he had used it for their troops and had abused their powers where they come in with no regard to people's personal lives and property and just taken over their stuff.
This was the declaration of independence.
56 Men Signed the Declaration
Now the 56 men who signed the Declaration were not doing badly under the King's system. They actually were doing very well. They had prospered. They were all fairly rich. Now they may have been worried about losing their riches, but they were rich men. They weren't saying "We don't have any food or clothing." They all had houses, farms, barns and cattle. They had signed the declaration, saying "We pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." Most of them gave every penny they had to the war effort. Most of them, almost every single one of them, died in poverty.
July 4th. Is Significant
On July 4, 1863 Robert E Lee pulled his troops in the Army of Virginia back out of Gettysburg and headed south. Having suffered enormous casualties in his Army in the three days of July 1, July 2 and July 3 of 1863. His Army was battered, 28,000 of his men were wounded, shot dead or missing in action.
On the union side about 23,000 wounded, dead, or missing in action.
The fields around Gettysburg were literally strewn with bodies. Let me give you a little background. When the southern states decided they were going to be Confederate states and they were leaving the Union, Lincoln said "You can't leave the Union." They were ready to go. They knew where Lincoln stood on slavery. They knew where Lincoln stood on the Union. As soon as Lincoln was inaugurated, they declared virtually independence. Lincoln said, "You can't do that, you can't leave, we have a structure. We have a government and you canít leave and we are not going to be divided here."
So war broke out. The first thing Lincoln did was to go to Robert E Lee. He said, "Would you command the Union forces and stop the rebellion?" Lee said, "I will, but it depends on what Virginia does. but I can never fight against my home state."
Robert E. Lee ended up fighting for the South because Virginia voted to go with the Confederacy. They were happy to have him. Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Virginia. He was the chief commander of the southern states. In the early days, one battle after another, the Union forces fell. Lee was very skilled in his military ability. His men believed in him, and if he said, "Charge, we can win," his men would charge with a confidence they could win. Battle after battle the North was defeated.
Meanwhile, the South thought that the best way they could really get independence was, to secure Europe's help, so they sent ambassadors over to Britain and France. They sent some to Germany. Their message was: "How about recognizing the Confederacy as a nation." If they could get Britain, France and Germany, to recognize them, that would give them a lot of help with their economy because all of these other countries used the cotton that came from the Confederacy, albeit by slavery. All of these countries needed cotton in order to make their clothing. They had a reason to make the Confederacy live.
Well the Europeans said, "We also trade with the North for other things. We don't want to make Lincoln upset, or make the North upset, so we must think this through," and so they were watching and asking, "Is the South winning and will they actually get the victory?"
Lincoln was desperate. He said, "We need a victory in some of these battles." Just about the time that the people in Europe were ready to side with the South, here came the battle of Antietam, Maryland and the North won a decisive victory in the battle of Antietam. The people in Europe said, "We had better wait, we are not going to be on anybody's side. We thought it was going the way of the South, but now the North has won a battle."
Shortly after the battle of Antietam, Lee's Army of Virginia won a major and decisive victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia in 1863 and Lee was hyped up, so he said, "Let's move on and take the Army, so we can get these European nations on our side, we need to strike the North in the North, going north of the Mason Dixon line, which is near the bottom of Pennsylvania. Let's go north into the Northern Territory and strike them."
It's very complicated, if you've ever seen the maps, in order to do battle at Gettysburg. They came up and they were in the fields outside of the little town near Gettysburg. Lee warned his troops, "No hurting of the civilian population. Don't touch the civilians. They are not in this battle. We will only battle the Union forces."
Lee had a general by the name of Longstreet. Longstreet said, "I think what we ought to do, now that they know we are up here, is to pull back unto we get up on a hill south of Gettysburg. They know we are here, let them come and get us. We will take the hill."
Longstreet was a master of defensive military action. Lee said, "That is sort of cowardly, we would have to wait for them to come and get us." So he asked a few others, and they thought, "We can get them." Well, guess what? The Union forces occupied the hill, so it was the Confederate forces that had to charge up the hill to win. Longstreet said, "I don't think so." Lee said, "Do it, I am giving the order." Longstreet said, "Okay, I will do it." But he was half hearted and could hardly stand it to send his men running up that hill. He sent his forces up the hill and they were beaten. A lot of heroic things happened on the Union side. The Confederates charged up the hill on July 2nd, and came back beaten, but Lee said, "I think we can make it and pierce the lines and go one more time." On July 3rd. they again charged up the hill and came back severely defeated.
They killed a lot of Union men, around 53,000 people either died, wounded or missing in action. Many died later. You know when you had wounded in the Civil War, the medical help was very bad.
Lee paused and he blamed himself, "It's my fault, I should have listened to Longstreet." Lee had such a stature among the South, and others blamed Longstreet saying, "It is his fault. He wasn't enthusiastic. He didn't commit to it. He was dragging his feet instead of charging."
So the Army of Virginia went south. It was such a turning point. It became the pivotal battle of the war. The South lost so many people. Lee's Army was wounded and hurt. They didn't stop fighting. They fought for about two more years before Lee surrendered at Appomattox and it was July 4, 1863.
Lincoln was informed and he was ecstatic. "We held it and we won. We defeated Lee's army. It is unbelievable."
It wasn't until November of 1863 that Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg and on his way he was sitting on the train. "I don't know what I am going to say," and he penned the words of his speech. People thought he was going to make a really long speech. He came there and this was the speech and you can time it, it is not very long.
"Forescore and seven years ago." That's 87 years ago, 1863 to 1776.
"Forescore and seven years ago. our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
That is a direct reference to the Declaration of Independence.
Now he says, "We are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work, which they who fought here, have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us, to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause, for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve, that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Finally Lee was defeated. as you know, his army was tattered. He was broken. He was beaten. He tried one more time in 1865. "If we could just get the supplies." The North was now increasingly powerful, stopping the supply lines. There were battles of the ships off of the coast and the North had put an embargo all the way from Virginia all the way around and down to the Carolinas and all the way to the keys of Florida, stopping ships from bringing in supplies for the South. It was a major problem in the South and they were struggling. Their currency was inflated, the Confederate dollar was worth virtually nothing, and their economy was bad.
And so Lee said, "We have to surrender." His men said, "Why don't we become guerrillas, and go off in little bands and do guerrilla warfare. Lee said, "No, it would disrupt everybody, it disrupts the citizens."
If you read the documents you will read about civility. Grant writes in the letter that Lee writes to him. Grant writes back and Grant signs his letter, "Your humble servant." They meet at Appomattox, Lee comes in and is completely impeccable in his Southern uniform. Grant is sloven. He has dirt on his shoes and his collar is open. As they meet, Grant says to Lee, "Do you remember me?" Lee said, "Yes, we both fought in the Mexican American war in Mexico." They knew each other. Grant said, "Do you remember what you said to me back in Mexico." Lee said, "No." Grant said, "You told me to straighten up, get your collar straight and look sharp in your uniform."
So here is Lee surrendering to the guy who was slovenly dressed.
Lee said, "What do you want from my men? What do you want us to do?" Grant said, "Have all of your men march by. We have supplies and we have food for them. We will feed them, have them to march by and lay their rifles and weapons here." Lee said, "What about some who have horses, what are they to do if they have their own horse?" Grant said, "They can keep their horse." Lee said, "What should they do after they put their rifles here?" Grant said, "They can have a nice meal and tell them just go home to their farms and just become good citizens." Lee said, "Okay."
So here they came, the Army of Virginia, tattered, skinny, thin. They fought valiantly for the South, but they had run out. It was all over. They put their rifles on and one of the lieutenants of the North told his soldiers who were standing out in front, "Atten uh," and they all saluted all these men who walked up and put their rifles down.
Grant knew that Lincoln would approve the terms of surrender because Lincoln did not want revenge, he wanted union. He wanted people to be together. He wanted the nation to stay as a whole. That was in 1865.
A couple of years later, Lincoln fought for an amendment to the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation. The 14th amendment guaranteeing no slavery and everybody was free.
Some years later after, in Richmond, Virginia, there was a church mostly attended by white people. But at this church, and I think it was an Episcopalian church, the pastor called for people to come forth, and have communion. The first guy out of his chair was a black man. He jumped up and he runs up and kneels. Now there had been no black people at that church before, it was a white church. So here is this black man right there ready to take communion, and the pastor doesn't know what to do. None of the white people have moved, only this black man is kneeling, finally a man whose looks were much older than his actual years, limping, walked up to the front and kneeled beside the black man and said, "I'll take communion with him." The man was Robert E Lee, the general of the South. He kneeled beside the black man and together they took communion. After that, the white people started coming up and they kneeled.
Lee was a leader of the South and he was an honorable man.
My ancestors , bless them, I'm here because of them, but they would never in their history put together a country like this. They would've never come to a place like this. My grandfather left that area to come here because all he saw was fighting the Muslims every day, religious persecution and fighting and fighting. He said, "I'm done, I want to come to a country where I can live in peace."
God bless America!
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This article was transcribed with minor editing from a
Sermon given by: David Antion on July 4, 2015
Titled: July 4th.
Transcribed by: bb 6/19/16
Guardian Ministries - P.O. Box 50734 - Pasadena, CA 91115