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Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress approved the final wording of a document declaring that the American colonies would no longer be part of the British Empire but would take their place “as Free and Independent States, [with] Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.” Now the Declaration of Independence was ready to be signed. The last line of the Declaration, right before the signatures, reads, “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 result was years of war. Many of the signers of the Declaration—along with thousands of others—lost their homes, their lives, and their family members as a result. But they achieved their goal: America became an independent country. And two hundred and forty-eight years later, hundreds of millions of Americans still celebrate the birth of their country on that day.


But why do Americans light fireworks and hang out flags on July 4 rather than on October 19, the day Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, more or less ending the war, or on September 3, the day the United States were officially recognized as independent? Wouldn’t it make more sense to mark the founding of the country from one of those days? After all, what happened on July 4, 1776 certainly did not guarantee that a new country would be born—about all it did guarantee was trouble for the men who signed it.


On December 10, 1976, a group of people gathered together in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and signed a document that would come to be known as Charter 77. Charter 77, published in January of 1977 with two hundred and forty-two signatures, spoke out against the human rights violations of the Czechoslovak government, which was at the time a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The document was suppressed and several of the most prominent signatories were put in prison. Others were dismissed from jobs or suffered other kinds of state harassment, and their children were denied educational opportunities. The signatories were not surprised.


They had hoped that the document would provide a rallying point for resistance to the tyranny of the Czechoslovak government, and they were willing to risk their safety and comfort. What none of them expected was that only twelve years later, the socialist government would collapse and be peacefully replaced by a democratically elected government, led by none other than Václav Havel, one of the men who had been put in prison for signing Charter 77.


Signatures are sacred—perhaps a strange thing to say when signing things usually seems more like a pointless formality. We constantly scribble signatures on receipts, privacy release forms, and endless stacks of useless paperwork. But it’s worth taking a moment to think about what that signature means. It’s the physical manifestation of a promise. When we sign our credit card receipt, that is our promise that we will pay.


Americans celebrate the Fourth of July as the birth of their nation because, as the signatures on the Declaration prove, that is the day when America first had men promise to die for her.

Independence Day is the celebration of a promise made and kept. And that is something worth celebrating.


What have you signed your name to?


 

Countries are worth dying for, whether you are starting a new country, defending against a foreign invader, or working to make your country better for its citizens. But there are other worthy causes that can claim our devotion, even to the point of giving our lives.


Family. Friendship. Faith.


My new book, Worth Dying For, explores all these themes and more. If you enjoyed Heaven’s Hunter, Worth Dying For continues the story. If you haven't read it, Worth Dying For can also be enjoyed on its own. It’s a story about a doubt-plagued Catholic kid trying to find the right way to live in a Galaxy where everyone has their own answer, and no one seems to agree.


 

About the author: Marie C. Keiser has been reading insatiably ever since she learned how, and writing almost as long. After teaching middle school for a few years and marrying one of her fellow teachers, she retired from teaching to further her plans for world domination . . . er, that is, to accommodate the needs of her growing family. When she's not plotting with her husband or chasing toddlers around the house, she writes from an undisclosed location surrounded by corn fields. She posts occasional essays and shares news about her books at marieckeiser.com.


Background image by Prawny from Pixabay

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