The history nerd in me likes to think that in our educational upbringing, we’ve been ripped off. As I’ve gotten older and studied my interests independently, I’ve become convinced at the failure of the public school system. And indeed, nowhere is this more apparent than with U.S. history. We’re presented with history-lite, a watered down, simplified version of events that neglect key moments and ideas. School boards opt for convenience over fact to fit whatever narrative they want to portray. And even when certain events are discussed, they’re distorted beyond any sensible reason to again, supply the perspective decided upon by those equally confused. This clouded historical narrative offered by public schools is faulty at best. To fully understand the significance of Independence Day and the philosophy that brought it forth, we need to shake off the educational bunk we’ve been fed since the early days of childhood. Below you’ll find four interesting items your history teacher assuredly glossed over.
4) Other States Had Already Declared Independence
Some States were really ahead of the game. Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Virginia had all declared their independence from Great Britain long before Thomas Jefferson penned his most famous work. Months before the Continental Congress would convene in Philadelphia, Virginia, arguably the most politically influential State at that time, had claimed its independence on May 15, 1776. By the time the forth rolled around, they had already refuted the King’s rule, elected a new governor in Patrick Henry, and adopted a new Republican constitution.
3) American Independence Was Actually Declared on July 2nd
John Adams once remarked that “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.” Now before you go accusing Adams of having his wig on to tightly or spending too much time in his cousins brewery, continue reading.
The day Adams was referring to, July 2nd, was the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. The declaration drafted and then adopted on July 4th, was the explanation for that vote. Having already declared independence, the Virginian government directed Richard Henry Lee, a delegate to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, to push the other colonies toward independence, as well. His proposed “Lee Resolution”, sought to declare the united colonies free and independent from Great Britain. The resolution passed with twelve for, none against, and one abstention. There was no going back for the colonists and this vote was solidified by the adoption of the declaration that came only two days later.
2) The American Revolution Was All About Secession
Since the War Between the States, secession has been maligned as a dirty word. Many refuse to take the idea of a U.S. State breaking from the Union seriously, instead opting to levy insults of the notion being traitorous, un-patriotic, and un-American. An argument truly soaked in irony. In actuality, the American Revolution was itself an effort by the British Colonies-turned States to secede from the empire of Great Britain.
The founders were champions of self-determination. They wanted to govern their own affairs because in their eyes, their relationship with Britain was no longer beneficial. They were driven by the radical notion that a person knows best how to run their own lives. So the next time you hear someone utter that forbidden word, think twice. Without it, the fourth of July would be just another day.
1) The States Were Sovereign Nations
Contrary to what your middle school history teacher may have suggested, U.S. States aren’t mere administrative sub-units of Washington, DC. Rather, they are sovereign bodies entered into an agreement (or compact) with other like States. Together, by joining this compact, they delegate specific powers to an equal body in the form of a federal government they created. In fact, when the founders spoke of “states”, they meant so in the way that Germany or France are considered “states”.
In the Declaration of Independence itself, Jefferson expresses as much when he exclaims that “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”
Throughout the entirety of the Declaration, Jefferson refers to the States in the plural sense rather than as some centralized and solitary unit. They were clearly separate entities, each with their own unique culture, governments, religions, etc., united only in their secession from Great Britain. And when King George III finally recognized American independence, he did so by naming each State individually in the Treaty of Paris (1783). Clearly, that would’ve been quite unnecessary if there now existed one unitary United States of America.
Over time, this sovereignty has diminished by the hands of an ever intrusive government in D.C. But the true nature of the Union hasn’t changed. The States, through their people, are still sovereign. They are still parties to the compact and they, not the federal government, are the final arbiters of that agreement. We must again see the States for what they truly are because only then will we see the restoration of liberty lost.