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Had It Not Been for the Church, There Would Be No State

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By John E. Green III

    1775, the venerable Founding Fathers were wavering.  Double mindedness was taking the day.  George Washington remarked when he took command of the Continental Army in June of 1775 that he “abhorred the idea of Independence.”  Even Thomas Jefferson was retreating from independence in August of 1775 when he wrote, “I would rather be in dependence on Great Britain, properly limited, than on any nation on earth, or than on no nation.”
    Monday, July 1, 1776, the committee report on the Declaration of Independence lay on the table before the delegates.  The resolution was debated all day.  At the close of the day, nine states voted in favor, South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted unanimously against it and Delaware was divided.  
    Tuesday, July 2, 1776, again debate till late into the night resulting in twelve colonies voting in favor with New York not voting.
    Thursday, July 4, 1776, at the close of the day twelve states passed The Declaration of Independence.  New York later assented.  The great document lay approved but unsigned. During the four days of debate the Declaration endured strenuous opposition, especially from the Pennsylvanian delegates.  The following objections are direct quotations from various delegates:

•           “The Declaration will not strengthen us by one man or by the least supply, while it may expose our soldiers to additional cruelties.”

•           “It might unite the different parties in Great Britain against us, and create disunion among ourselves.”

•           “With other powers it would rather injure than avail us.”

•           “If it is in the interest of any kingdom to aid us, we shall be aided without such a declaration.”

•           “Before such an irrevocable step shall be taken, we ought to know the disposition of the great powers, and how far they will permit any one or more of them to interfere.”

•           “It is singularly disrespectful to France to make the declaration before her sense is known.”

•           “The door to accommodation with Great Britain ought not be shut until we know what terms can be obtained from some competent power.  Thus to break with her before we have compacted with another is to make experiments on our lives and liberties of my countrymen, which I would sooner die than make.”

•           “The formation of our government and an agreement upon terms of our confederation ought to precede the assumption of our station among sovereigns.”

•           “The confederation ought to be settled before the declaration of independence.”

•           “If the Declaration is first made, political necessities may urge upon the acceptance of conditions highly disagreeable to parts of the union.”

    The Reverend Dr. John M. Krebs of New York recorded the following:  “When the Declaration of Independence was under debate doubts and forebodings were whispered through the hall. The House hesitated, wavered, and for awhile liberty and slavery appeared to hang in even scale.  It was then that an aged patriot arose – a venerable and stately form, his head white with the frost of years. 
    Every eye went to him with the quickness of thought and remained with the fixedness of the polar star.  He cast on the assembly the look of inexpressible interest and unconquerable determination, while on his visage the hue of age was lost in the flush of burning patriotism that fired his cheeks.”
    “There is”, he said, “a tide in the affairs of men, a nick of time.  We perceive it now before us. To hesitate is to consent to our own slavery.  That noble instrument upon your table, which ensures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in the house.  He that will respond to its accents and strain every nerve to carry it into effect its provisions is unworthy of the name of freeman. For my own part, of property I have some, of reputation more.  That reputation is staked, that property is pledged, on the issue of this contest; and although these gray hairs must soon descend into the sepulcher, I would infinitely rather that they descend thither by the hand of the executioner than to desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country.”
    The debate ended, signing commenced, and the United States was born.
    Days later Horace Walpole rose from his seat in the British House of Commons to report on the “extraordinary proceedings” which had lately occurred in the far-off colonies of the New World.  “There is no good crying about the matter.  Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian Parson, and that is the end of it!”
    That Presbyterian Parson was the Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon, and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence.

    Reverend Dr. John Witherspoon: Born in 1723 in Scotland into a family of clergy and a direct descendant of John Knox the founder of Presbyterism.  At age 4 he could read the King James Bible, at 13 entered Edinburgh University, and was ordained at 20 years old.  He was a brilliant orator and became one of Scotland’s most famous pastors.  In 1746 he raised an army to defend the Crown against Scottish rebels. In 1768 he went to New Jersey to become the president of the Presbyterian University of New Jersey (present day Princeton). He professed that he loved his new home in New Jersey, and that he had "become an American the moment he landed." He quickly sided with the patriots who favored independence, and in June 1776, he was elected to Congress. In 1777, his son was killed at the Battle of Germantown, and in 1778 the British burned their home and badly damaged the university.  His wife Elizabeth died in 1789.  He was a member of the New Jersey convention that ratified the US Constitution, making New Jersey the third state to approve the Constitution. He died in 1794 at the age of 71 on his farm near Princeton.

5 Comments

  1. Alton R Ashford

    July 4, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Wow, I got chills reading this. Happy Independence Day everyone!

  2. Jackie C.

    July 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Ray,
    Is there anything you DON’T read?
    Just askin’

  3. Kim Fralick

    July 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Dave, thanks for sharing!

  4. Alton R Ashford

    July 6, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Jackie C , hope your not hinting I’m well read. Mostly I just skim until something peaks my interest. Then I have to re-read it three times for understanding. Thank goodness CS is printed once a week. BTW are you like a GREAT AUNT now.

  5. J. Causey

    July 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    You betcha!
    I’m GREAT !

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