IN GOD WE TRUST
“THESE ARE THE TIMES THAT TRY MEN’S SOULS.”
These words are taken from a pamphlet, “Common Sense,” written in 1776 by
Thomas Paine. His writing challenged the authority of the British government and
monarchy. The plain language that Paine used spoke to the common people of
America and was the first to ask for independence from Great Britain. It was
published anonymously in January of 1776. Within three months, 120,000 copies
were sold. 150,000 copies were eventually sold.
During the first week of May, 1776, Rhode Island declared independence.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced the resolution that
also called for foreign alliances and a confederation plan for the colonies.
On June 10, 1776, Congress appointed a committee to prepare a declaration of
independence by July 1. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert
Livingston and Benjamin Franklin made up the committee. Jefferson wrote the
first draft in two days and made 15 changes before submitting it to Congress.
Franklin had written a declaration the previous July, but had been persuaded not
to submit it at that time.
On June 28, 1776, the final form was submitted to Congress, where the
delegates improved the document. Two long paragraphs were deleted and a few
other minor changes were made.
On July 2, 1776, Congress first voted for Henry Lee’s resolution for
independence by a vote of 12 for and none against, with New York abstaining. At
this time, John Adams wrote, “It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade,
with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one
end of the continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.”
On July 4, 1776, Congress accepted the final draft.
On July 15, 1776, New York was the last state to declare independence.
On Aug. 2, 1776, the document was signed first by John Hancock, president of
the Congress. It is said that he stated, “We must be unanimous, there must be no
pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” Benjamin Franklin then said,
“Yes, we must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang
Fifty-six members of the Continental Congress signed the document. There
action was considered an act of treason, and for this reason the names of the
signers were kept secret until January 1777. By 1781, the British had destroyed
the homes of 15 of the signers. A few were captured by the British and put into
Though all of this occurred over 200 years ago, these events are meaningful
to us. It will help us to remember who we are as a nation, what we stand for,
and what we desire for our future. These people left a legacy of working for
their country, looking to God for guidance. Let us do the same.
“In God We Trust”