The fact our country was founded by criminals is beyond debate.
The 56 men who signed the Declaration Of Independence knew affixing their names to that document would be considered an act of treason by the British crown.
Twenty-six copies were made and the colonists made sure one went to England and King George III.
Famously John Hancock ensured the king would notice his name by signing in a very large hand.
It was an ultimate act of defiance.
Each man knew their actions would result in them being targeted for hanging. Most of the signers were men of means who were not subjected to the injustices of the common man and yet each risked his life in order to do the right thing.
Of the 56, five were captured and tortured to death, 12 had their homes ransacked and their property destroyed, and nine died fighting in the war.
After the revolution, most of the survivors served in the new government, while Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would go on to become president.
As for Hancock, he would survive the war for independence and become governor of Massachusetts.
The declaration itself was carefully crafted by Thomas Jefferson with slight revisions by Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Not only did it declare the colonies free, but it would also change the way governments would operate forever.
At that time, most of the world's peoples were ruled by either monarchs or dictators. The American paper promised the new country would be governed by the people and for the people. As you might imagine that concept made many of the world's absolute rulers very nervous. King George would have little trouble convincing the heads of other countries to join in the fight. The world's rulers hoped this was an idea that would not catch on. The declaration also insisted the new government answer to its citizens for its actions.
Jefferson's document demanded that henceforth each of the 13 colonies would be states. At that time the word "state" referred to an independent and sovereign nation. The Declaration Of Independence said America would consist of 13 independent countries each operating their own government.
This way of thinking was new to the world. While Jefferson referred to the 13 colonies as states in his Declaration it noted England was also a state itself. Old Tom knew just how to stick it to the king and was not shy about doing just that.
In his most famous line from the Declaration Jefferson said: "We hold these truths to be self evident --." Mr. Jefferson was saying to the king, look the fact that all men are created equal and deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be obvious. Evidently those rights had not been obvious to King George. The citizens of the colonies were so over taxed and deprived of necessities they were forced to seek them elsewhere.
At the time of the American Revolution, piracy on the high seas was at an all time high. The colonists could hardly afford the goods shipped in from England, so they did business with the pirates who intercepted the British vessels in the Atlantic. After the successful revolution, The Declaration Of Independence was hailed as the outline for our great Constitution. People around the world began copying the success of the upstart Americans. The world would be forever changed.
These days we have allowed some of the ideas put forth in the Declaration to be lost. Our central government is now much more powerful and intrusive into our daily lives than the signers ever intended.
Yet, the United States of America remains the flagship for democracy admired around the world. While we are despised and envied by our enemies, the religious zealots who sometimes manage to deliver a blow should know by now their actions only cause Americans to come together in renewed patriotism.
The Declaration of Independence as a paper could be easily destroyed, but the ideas it contains will live forever.
There is no going back. Modern patriots continue to put their lives on the line to see to it just as the 56 signers did in 1776.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society and The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of two books, "The World's Greatest Beach" and "I Swear the Snook Drowned." Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (386) 441-7793.