We Must All Hang Together, Or We Shall All Hang Se

Ross Mackenzie
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Posted: Jul 06, 2001 12:00 AM
Today's column is given over to comments about American liberty, independence and the Declaration approved 225 years ago: George Mason, in Williamsburg, in June, 1776: "No free government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." John Adams, writing to his wife Abigail, on July 3, 1776, from Philadelphia - about the Continental Congress' adoption the day before of Richard Henry Lee's June 7 resolution "that these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states": "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. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized 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." King George III's July 4, 1776, entry in his diary: "Nothing of importance happened today." John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, upon putting his large signature on the Declaration: "There. I guess King George will be able to read that." Caesar Rodney, a member of the Continental Congress from Delaware, in a letter dated July 4: "I arrived in Congress (though detained by thunder and rain) [in] time enough to give my voice in the matter of independence. It is determined by the thirteen United Colonies, without even one dissenting Colony. We have now got through with the whole of the Declaration, and ordered it to be printed, so that you will soon have the pleasure of seeing it. Handbills of it will be printed, and sent to the armies, cities, county towns, etc., to be published or rather proclaimed in form." John Adams, commenting on the first public reading of the Declaration (July 8) by Colonel John Nixon of the Philadelphia Associators - a militia founded by Benjamin Franklin and others in the 1740s: "Three cheers rendered the welkin. The battalions paraded on the Common and gave us a feu-de-joie, notwithstanding the scarcity of powder. The bells rang all day and almost all night. Even the chimers chimed away." George Washington, following the first reading of the Declaration (July 9) to his troops on Manhattan Island, New York: "The general hopes that this important event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer and soldier to act with fidelity and courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms." Ezra Stiles of Connecticut, writing in his diary July 13: "[A friend brought] the Congress' Declaration of Independence. ... This I read at noon, and for the first time realized independence. Thus the Congress [has] tied a Gordian knot, which the Parliament will find they can neither cut nor untie. The thirteen united colonies now rise into an independent republic among kingdoms, states, and empires on Earth." Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, following the first public reading of the Declaration, by Thomas Crafts, July 19, in Boston: "The bells rang, the privateers fired the forts and batteries, the cannon were discharged ... and every face appeared joyful. ... After dinner, the King's arms were taken down from the State House and every vestige of him from every place ... and burnt. ... Thus ends royal authority in this state, and all the people shall say, Amen." Benjamin Franklin at the Aug. 2 signing of the Declaration in Philadelphia, responding to John Hancock's remark that "we must be unanimous [and] there must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.": "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."