In a few days we will celebrate the anniversary of what most folks generally consider to be the birth date of our great nation, the United States of America.

While the Fourth of July is generally considered to be the country’s birthday, I would offer that this date is actually more akin to being the time when the dream of our nation’s existence was conceived by our Founding Fathers.

Our actual existence did not become official until Oct. 19, 1781, when Lord Cornwallis surrendered after the battle of Yorktown. Some might even suggest that America’s “birth certificate” should read Sept. 3, 1783, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended hostilities between the U.S. and England.

Irrespective of the exact date and time of this monumental achievement, Americans should rejoice over the blessings we have received, and continue to enjoy, from this bold and exceedingly perilous foray into uncharted territory by our early founders and statesmen.

This declaration of the unalienable rights of man, “the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” was a bold and controversial concept. Furthermore, one of the most innovative facets of this declaration was to state, “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among man, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

With the passage of 231 years since this earth-shattering proclamation, the enormous risk taken by these 56 men who put their names on this declaration is no longer readily apparent. By English law, they were committing treason, which was punishable by death. They declared as representatives of “the good people of the Colonies,” and in their name, “They are absolved of all allegiance to the British Crown.” Can you imagine a more tenuous position than levying charges against the ruling Monarch of one of the most powerful nations on earth, and further declaring your freedom and independence from subservience to his rule?

Our Founding Fathers, with their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, offered their support and placed their reliance on divine providence for their personal protection. They were aware of the risk they were taking, but nevertheless, the last line of the declaration stated that, “We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

All but nine of the original signers survived the Revolutionary War and many went on to have successful careers in either business or government.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson later served as President of the United States, and there were several others who served as vice-president, senators or governors of states. While some endured the war without great tragedy, there were many who suffered greatly by choosing to support, both personally and monetarily, this great and noble cause.

Eighteen of the founding fathers had their homes burned or ransacked by the British Army. Two of the signers were wounded in battle and two others had sons that were casualties of the war. Five of the Founding Fathers were captured by the British. Three of the four delegates of the South Carolina delegation had their homes destroyed and were captured and imprisoned for a year by the British when Charleston fell in 1780.

Most of these men who gave so selflessly of themselves were persons of considerable means, and in the end, many were left penniless because of their generosity.

As an example, Thomas Nelson of Virginia raised two million dollars for the war effort on his personal credit, and was never repaid by the government. For his efforts, he died bankrupt and was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave. Numerous others endured a similar fate.

Today, as we look at the greed, corruption and flagrant disregard for rule of law displayed by many, if not most, of our elected politicians, it is hard to imagine the gallantry and sacrifice of our early leaders and statesmen.

Instead of sacrificing personal wealth as was done by these patriots, today’s politicians seem to feel it is their right to dine heavily and often at the public trough.

When did so-called public service become a right to profiteer and plunder public assets through either outright fraud or influence peddling to the highest bidder?

In what may have been their most defining attribute, the signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for the good of the nation. What a travesty that such integrity is so woefully lacking in today’s society

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Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to larrj2@airmail.net. Columns submitted to The Weatherford Democrat by guest writers reflect the opinions of the writer and in no way reflect the beliefs or opinions of The Weatherford Democrat.