I’m thankful for my freedom and the foundation of the United States of America, but let’s be real. Independence came at a high price, and most of us don’t even remember the bullet points from history class.
Once a holiday to mark the liberation from British oppression, July 4th now celebrates blow-out mattress sales, discounted illegal fireworks, and paid vacation days. Some even honor the occasion with a booze cruise and spud gun ceremony.
Nothing says “America” like using 3 feet of PVC piping to launch a 40mph potato. It’s the pomp and circumstance of sunburned drunkards! Trust me. I’ve camped with these people.
Needless to say, the nation could use a reminder on Independence Day’s meaning.
Part 1: Troubling Times
In case you forgot, King George III ruled Great Britain and the thirteen North American colonies: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia, New York, North Carolina and New England’s Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. (Back then, Maine was part of Massachusetts and Vermont was part of New York.)
As if that wasn’t enough territory, from 1754-1763, Great Britain was fighting the French & Indians for most of Canada (The Seven Years War). They won, but with great expenses. To make up for their national deficit, they imposed unfair laws on the Colonies over the next several years.
Part 2: Taxation Without Representation
From 1764-1765, Great Britain added or increased taxes on sugar, coffee, indigo, wine, and the stamps required on every paper product. The importation of rum and French wine was banned without Colonial consent. American barracks and public houses were required to accommodate British soldiers and Colonists were prohibited from issuing their own currency.
[In the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s where it happened. Britain shoved America against the graffitied alley walls and gave him the shake down. Being the new kid on the block, you’d expect America to be scared. Instead, he told Britain to back off.]
Due to American boycotting, Parliament took back the tax on stamps only to add more taxes and laws. In 1766, The Declaratory Act dictated Great Britain’s superiority “in all cases whatsoever.” In 1767, additional taxes on glass, lead, paints, paper and tea were enacted. Colonists further boycotted the materials, so Parliament took back all the taxes, except the one on tea.
[Britain took America’s wallet and smugly tucked it into his jacket. America grabbed Britain’s wrist, reaching forward for his money. Britain shoved America back against the bricks.]
On March 5, 1770, public protests lead to the death of five American colonists, shot by British troops (The Boston Massacre).
Three years later, Colonists called “The Sons of Liberty” disguised themselves as Mohawk Native Americans and dumped 342 crates of British tea into Boston harbor (The Boston Tea Party).
[America grabbed Britain by the collar and warned him once more to back off.]
The building tension of events created back and forth advances. Britain fortified its troops in Boston. America created Minute Men militia groups. Britain banned New England’s trade between any other country. America refused to lend their ammunition in Massachusetts.
Royal authorities decided Parliament’s laws could only be upheld with force, and war seemed inevitable.
Part 3: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World
On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord. Redcoats planned to destroy the ammunition, but two lanterns in Boston’s North Church indicated the British were going to attack by sea. (“One if by land. Two if by sea.”) Paul Revere, among others, galloped off to warn the countryside.
Traveling 18 miles from one city to the other, Redcoats were met with some 2,000 Minute Men. By then end of the battle, roughly 250 British and 90 Colonial soldiers had died.
[Britain did not heed America’s words. He broke the clenching grasp and threw a heated uppercut into America’s jaw. His vision went dark, until America felt the rubble he’d landed upon. This wasn’t about getting his wallet back anymore. It wasn’t even the injustice of theft. No, it was personal now.]
Back in 1774, twelve of the thirteen colonies sent fifty-six delegates to meet in the First Continental Congress. Now, in 1775, they met again to elect John Hancock as the President of Congress and George Washington as the commander-in-chief.
Like any war, the years are littered with battles. At Bunker Hill, Americans worked through the night constructing trenches to defend their strategic viewpoint. This was a battle the Colonists lost, claiming 1,226 lives from both sides.
In 1776, through the brutality of winter, General Knox and his soldiers used oxen-drawn sleds to transport 60 tons of artillery over 300 miles. This feat helped force the British evacuation from Boston on March 17, 1776.
[America planted his feet on the beaten alley ground. As he rose, Britain’s knee lodged itself into his abdomen. The pain was immense, but America was perceptive. He grabbed Britain’s knee and threw him off balance, thrusting the body hard toward the broken asphalt.]
With the shift in the war, Congress rallied delegates in favor of freedom. A committee drafted the declaration to be written by Thomas Jefferson. Only July 2nd, Congress voted for independence. On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved.
[Crouched atop him, with his fist readied in the air, America did not deliver a second blow. He only looked into Britain’s eyes and said “This is my hood now.”]
The United States of America was free.
Part 4: Afterwards
Although the thirteen colonies obtained their independence, the fight was not yet over. In December, during the Battle of Trenton, Washington crossed the Delaware to launch a surprise attack on Hessian (German) soldiers. January’s Battle of Princeton was similar, and helped clear New Jersey of most British support.
In 1778, France allied with America, lending crucial military and financial aid. The next year, Spain allied.
In 1780, Benedict Arnold, planning to give a New York fort to the enemy, was discovered and fled to British command.
Finally, in 1783, Congress ratified the Articles of Peace. On April 15, after relentless conflict, warfare was formally ceased.
The Revolutionary War lasted 8 years and claimed 8,000 American military lives. The struggle for freedom was even longer.
These were the brothers, sons and fathers of A,erican families trudging through the countryside, weathering harsh conditions despite scarcities in food, clothing and water. They sacrificed in the name of liberty.
At the very least, we can make our fore fathers proud by remembering what they died for on this great American holiday. And maybe light a few snakes and sparklers in the process.