Thomas Paine, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson on Independence & Freedom

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival…. 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 forevermore. You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.” – John Adams (letter to wife Abigail)

The quotes captured and expressed here are from two of the most instrumental men involved in the process leading up to the Declaration of Independence. The words of Thomas Paine would set the tone for what the expectations of those seeking Independence might be. He knew that a mere Declaration of Independence was but the beginning of the real work of defending the idea. He also wanted the people to understand that to reap the blessings, there should also be an understanding of the consistent effort and vigilance required to support such blessings.

The official Declaration of Freedom from Britain was made on July 2, 1776 as indicated in the letter of John Adams to his wife Abigail. The resolution was approved and the New York delegates were given permission to make it a unanimous vote. It took two days after the vote for the Continental Congress to draft and agree on the edits that would be the formal Declaration on Independence document that was prepared for the public. Once approved by the Congress on the 4th of July, the Independence Document was sent to the print shop of John Dunlap. About 200 copies were made with John Hancock’s name printed at the bottom. As of the time of this writing, there are 26 known copies remaining.

The document was read to the public for the first time on July 8, 1776 by Colonel John Nixon of Philadelphia in what is now commonly known as Independence Square. It is difficult to imagine today, just how challenging the process of communication would have been at the time. All of the methods of modern communication we take for granted today not only didn’t exist, but wouldn’t come to be known until many lifetimes later.

Thomas Jefferson did also take the time to communicate what he believed was the importance of the day one last time in a letter dated July 2, 1826. He was quoted as saying the following: “For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.” It was just two days later that both Jefferson and Adams passed away on the fourth of July.

The importance of this document cannot be understated. And yet, without a commitment to uphold the principles it stands for, this historical writing is just a collection of words on a piece of paper with little meaning. It is actually the words uttered by countless selfless servants about everything the document stands for, that gives it both credence and credibility. It is the willingness of those who declare to protect and defend the great ideals captured by the Founding Fathers, that bring the words of the instrument to life. Thomas Paine knew all those years ago that those expecting to reap the blessings of Freedom, must be prepared to face the ensuing fatigue guaranteed to be an integral part of supporting and defending it…

Author Bio: Bobby Kountz