This Fourth of July, millions of Americans will celebrate our nation’s independence while enjoying a barbecue with family and friends – something we all may have missed last year – and displays of fireworks. While we should take time to commemorate the holiday with loved ones, we must also recognize the significance of our freedom.
Over two centuries ago, 13 united “States of America” signed the Declaration of Independence, severing ties with the British Crown. This would lead to the development of the democracy we have today, and the establishment of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
We all recognize the efforts of our Founding Fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, or individuals like Paul Revere, but there were many other people who played an essential role in helping our great nation establish her freedom.
Here are four key figures from the American Revolution who contributed to our independence.
- Patrick Henry – A Founding Father and the first governor of Virginia, Patrick Henry is remembered for saying these famous words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” His speech was believed to inspire those in attendance to prepare Virginia troops for war against Great Britain. As a lawyer, Henry’s first major legal case, Parson’s Cause, challenged the limits of England’s power over the American colonies. Henry also wrote a series of resolutions known as the Virginia Resolves on the Stamp Act challenging Great Britain’s Stamp Act of 1765. These resolutions opposed taxation without representation.
After the American Revolution, wary of how the U.S. Constitution would give too much power to the government, Henry would become an outspoken Anti-Federalist. He was the author of several Anti-Federalist papers which were said to be influential in shaping the Bill of Rights. Henry fought for the rights of the individual.
- Abigail Adams – An early advocate for women’s rights, Abigail Adams was known to be an adviser to her husband, John Adams (a Founding Father and second president of the United States.) As America began to form its own government, John moved to Philadelphia in 1774 as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, while Abigail remained in Braintree, Mass., to take care of their farm and children. The couple would communicate through letters.
One of her most famous letters championed women's rights. In her letter of March 31, 1776, she wrote, “desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.” She would continue to write, “If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Even though women were not included in the Declaration of Independence, Abigail was known for continuing to advocate for the rights of women.
- Robert Morris – Recognized as the “Financier of the American Revolution,” Robert Morris also signed three of the nation’s principle documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. He was known for saying, “It is the duty of every individual to act his part in whatever station his country may call him to in hours of difficulty, danger, and distress.”
Morris served as the chairman of the Continental Congress’ Finance Committee from 1775 to 1778. He traded American goods with France in exchange for war supplies such as arms and ammunition for the Continental Army. To support the war efforts, he created reforms and taxes to secure money; however, when there was not enough money he used his own. He was also said to be the architect of the financial system of the early government. Although Morris would later fall into financial hardships after the war, he is credited with the nation’s emerging prosperity.
- James Armistead Lafayette – Born into slavery, James Armistead was granted permission from his master to enlist in the Marquis de Lafayette’s French Allied units. Armistead became a spy for the allied forces. He disguised himself as a runaway slave to infiltrate General Cornwallis’s headquarters. As he gained the trust of the British, they appointed him to spy on the colonies due to his knowledge of the Virginia terrain. He acted as a double-agent supplying information to Lafayette on the British and then providing inaccurate information to Cornwallis to misguide him.
Armistead’s most notable accomplishment was informing Lafayette about Cornwallis’s move to Yorktown with the expected arrival of 10,000 British troops, which led to the siege of Yorktown. This was the last major land battle of the American Revolution and led to the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. When Armistead returned home, he was forced back into slavery despite his efforts in the war. However, after several failed petitions to the Virginia legislature for his freedom, Lafayette provided a testimonial of his efforts which led him to be a free man.
As we gather with our loved ones this Fourth of July, let’s reflect on the magnitude of the price of freedom. Take a moment to thank those individuals who serve our country every day to protect the privileges we enjoy. America’s strength comes from the individuals who are willing to pay the ultimate price for our freedom.
Let us not take for granted the significance of the words penned in the Declaration of Independence which read of our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And, when those rights are under threat, let us not stand idly by but have our voices heard by voting at the local, state and national levels. It’s time America remembered the significance of our freedom and the importance of preserving our rights.
Dr. Kent Ingle serves as the president of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, one of the fastest growing private universities in the nation. Read Kent Ingle's Reports — More Here.
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