Published On: July 8th, 2023

In commemorating the Declaration of Independence, a unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America, an action of the second continental congress, July 4, 1776, it might be helpful to remember that every event leading up to it had to happen exactly as it did for America to be the independent nation that she is now.  It is an interesting story.  Here is part of it:

Moving past the attempted early religious utopias in Massachusetts, Delaware, and elsewhere; moving past the early struggles to survive harsh, unforgiving environments; moving past famine and cannibalism; British colonists finally established a tiny foothold along the eastern seaboard of what is now the United States.  The year is 1630.  By 1642 common schools were established in Massachusetts; Harvard was proposed in 1633 and chartered in 1650.  Britain vied with France, Spain, and the Netherlands in North America as they did in other parts of the world for furs, timber, sugar, rice, tobacco, and later for the raw materials that fueled new steam-powered manufacturing.

Once civil society was firmly rooted in the American colonies through private ownership of property and the needed records, judges, and courthouses to verify this ownership and its defense, British America prospered.  British Americans were proud to be British, were grateful to be British, and supported Britain’s desire to eliminate its main rival in North America – the French, if only to acquire more land for settlement.

This land, you will recall in Bonfires of Rage, represents non-aristocratic ownership, the end of feudal serfdom, a change in status for “average” people who were but tenants for others in Europe.  This is not communal land, designated as belonging to or settled by a tribe, but private parcels, with boundaries, with livestock, gardens, and a shack, meant to be improved if the occupants were lucky enough to survive.  Thousands upon thousands of people, eager to own a tiny parcel after centuries of servitude, could not be stopped, however certain gruesome death was.

William Pitt, Secretary of State for Great Britain, promised British colonists in America that, at His Majesty’s expense, the French would be defeated and their claims in North America extinguished.  This is the French and Indian War (1754-63), fought mostly in the Ohio Valley by 20,000 British regulars and another 20,000 British-American militia.  This is where the accident of American independence from Great Britain begins.  It begins with the haughty, with the breaking of a promise, and it ends with turning a loyal, grateful, and loving people into an unnecessary enemy.

The Ohio Valley in 1754 is the wilderness.   Everything is dirty, primitive, smells bad; there is little mercy or forgiveness; there is constant danger and unimaginable cruelty.  The colonists formed undisciplined and untrained militias for the mutual defense of their farms.  When British troops arrived, under the command of General Edward Braddock, ready to fight on the frontier, not New York, the difference between a Brit and an American became quite obvious.

Looking down their noses at the filthy Americans, British soldiers plundered and burned what had taken ordinary generations of Americans a long time to build.   Many had lost wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, and children to raids.  Shacks were burned down with people in them; horses and livestock were regularly stolen.  And now, with everything they had gone through just to own a small piece of land, those thought of as allies – the vaunted Mother Country –  mocked the survivors and laughed at their pathetic states of being.  To add insult to injury, the British Parliament decided to tax America for expenses incurred in winning the war against the French – the promise that His Majesty would pay for the war was broken.  And so, in the middle of the 18th century, the development of the intellectual premise for America’s break with Great Britain began.

In spite of the anger of some Americans regarding British attitudes, at least a third of all American colonists never bought the reasoning or the philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence.  Another third were not sure about leaving the protection of Great Britain’s navy or incurring the wrath of the world’s most formidable military.  Which means – the American Revolution was promulgated by only one-third of the population, the other two-thirds being indifferent or opposed.  Everything, then, had to fall perfectly in place. . .

Governor of Virginia, Robert Dinwiddie, sent 21-year-old George Washington on a dangerous mission to deliver a letter to the French demanding they surrender.  The French declined and tried to have Washington assassinated on his way back to Virginia.  Washington disguised himself and lived.

As the superior officer in a militia sent to protect the Ohio Valley, George Washington was surrounded by French Canadians at Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania.  Washington surrendered the Fort but was allowed to return home unharmed.

General Edward Braddock was mortally wounded in battle with the French and was pulled away in a hail of bullets by George Washington, a personal aide of the General, so that Braddock could be given a proper burial.  Washington survived the hail of bullets. 

And just prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. . .

General George Washington, Commander of the Continental Army, discovers a plot by several members of his Life Guards to have him kidnapped and delivered to the British.  One of the plotters, Thomas Hickey, is court-martialled and publicly hanged.

And during the American Revolution. . .

At the Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania, 1777, George Washington was spotted on horseback by an expert marksman for the British.  Washington’s coolness, calm, and professional demeanor caused the sniper to let the rider saunter off.  The Revolution might have been lost at this moment.

And after the American Revolution. . .

Washington agrees to be President of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.  He never misses a session and rarely utters a word, but his presence, and the honor of being in his presence, inspires others to one of the greatest works of governance ever produced.  He limits his Presidency of the nation to two terms so as not to accumulate undue power.  He warns America against permanent entangling alliances.

But for every detail falling in place America would not have won its Revolution and the Declaration of Independence would be forgotten.  What we do know, for certain, is that all the elevated rhetoric and all the philosophical arguments in favor of separation from Great Britain would be meaningless without George Washington.  He was a human being of his time, yes; but his sense of humility, honor, and duty leaves his importance unparalleled.  If he were here with us now, our recovery of respect, dignity, and morality as a nation would be no accident – he would lead us and we would gladly follow.

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    About the Author: Miss C

    M.E. Boyd, "Miss Constitution" is an attorney, author, and instructor in Business, Educational, and Constitutional Law. She has appeared on television and radio and speaks publicly on American history, the founding documents, and current political issues. Her mission is to help citizens understand the Founding philosophies behind the system so that we can-together-help preserve the blessings of liberty and prosperity. Read more about Miss C