“WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” —The Declaration of Independence, signed July 4th, 1776.
George Washington read the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Army in New York City on July 9th, 1776, leaving those words in his soldiers’ ears. A week before, a formidable British force had begun to land on Staten Island. Two months later, the Continental Army was driven out of New York and across New Jersey. Small victories at Trenton and Princeton brought short-lived respite; defeat followed until Philadelphia was captured and the Revolutionary soldiers were on the brink of starvation. Only after they emerged from the ordeal of Valley Forge in 1778 did the tide begin to turn. Triumph at Yorktown came in 1781, more than five years after the Declaration’s signing.
The Declaration of Independence was not a pronouncement of victory; it was a statement of intent. Its signing on July 4th, 1776, was not a moment of triumph, but the beginning of an arduous trial. Americans then had to work to achieve the independence asserted by the Declaration; Americans ever since have had to work to fulfill the self-evident truths expressed within it. On the 4th of July, we, as citizens, rightly celebrate our Republic’s independence. In this year of trial, we should also resolve ourselves to carry out the hard work that is necessary to preserve and perfect it.
Thus, for the support of that Declaration, we could well-use this occasion to again mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.