The greatest decision of all time, as far as any American citizen is concerned, was reached in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776, when fifty-six men signed their names to a document which they well knew would bring freedom to all Americans, or leave every one of the fifty-six hanging a gallows!
You have heard of this famous document, but you may not have drawn from it the great lesson in personal achievement it so plainly thought.
We all remember the date of this momentous decision, but few of us realize what courage that decision required. We remember our history, as it was taught; we remember dates, and the names of the men who fought; we remember Valley Forge, and Yorktown; we remember George Washington and Lorn Cornwallis. But we little know little of the real forces back of these names, dates, and places. We know still less of that intangible power which insured us freedom long before Washington's armies reached Yorktown.
It is nothing short of tragedy that the writers of history have missed, entirely, even the slightest reference to the irresistible power which gave birth and freedom to the nation destined to set up new standards of independence for all the peoples of the earth. I say it is a tragedy, because it is the selfsame power which must be used by every individual who surmounts the difficulties of life, and forces life to pay the price asked.
Let us briefly review the events which gave birth to this power. The story begins with an incident in Boston, March 5, 1770. British soldiers were patrolling the streets, openly threatening the citizens by their presence. The colonists resented armed men marching in their midst. They began to express their resentment openly, hurling stones as well as epithets at the marching soldiers, until the commanding officer gave orders, "Fix bayonets. . .Charge!"
The battle was on. It resulted in the death and injury of many. The incident aroused such resentment that the Provincial Assembly (made up of prominent colonists) called a meeting for the purpose of taking a definite action. Two of the members of that Assembly were John Hancock and Samuel Adams. They spoke up courageously and declared that a move must be made to eject all British soldiers from Boston.
Remember this - a decision, in the minds of two men, might properly be called the beginning of the freedom which we, of the United States now enjoy. Remember too, that the decision of these two men called for faith, and courage, because it was dangerous.
Before the Assembly adjourned, Samuel Adams was appointed to call on the governor of the province, Hutchinson, and demand the withdrawal of the British troops.
The request was granted, the troops were removed from Boston, but the incident was not closed. It had caused a situation which was destined to change the entire civilization.
Richard Henry Lee became an important factor in this story by reason of the fact that he and Samuel Adams communicated frequently (by correspondence), sharing their fears and their hopes concerning the welfare of the people of their provinces. From this practice, Adams conceived the idea that a mutual exchange of letters between the thirteen colonies might help to bring about the coordination of effort so badly needed in connection with the solution of their problems. Two years after the clash with the soldiers in Boston (March '72), Adams presented this idea to the Assembly, in the form of a motion that a Correspondence Committee be established among the colonies, with definitely appointed correspondents in each colony, "for the purpose of friendly cooperation for the betterment of the colonies of British America."
It was the beginning of the organization of the far-flung power destined to give freedom to you and me. The Master Mind had already been organized. It consisted of Adams, Lee and Hancock.
The Committee of Correspondence was organized. The citizens of the colonies had been waging disorganized warfare against the British soldiers, through incidents similar to the Boston riot, but nothing of benefit had been accomplished. Their individual grievances had not been consolidated under one Master Mind. No group of individuals had put their hearts, minds, souls and bodies together in one definite decision to settle their difficulty with the British once and for all, until Adams, Hancock, and Lee got together.
Meanwhile, the British were not idle. They, too, were doing some planning and "Master-Minding" on their own account, with the advantage of having back of them money and organized soldiery.
The Crown appointed Gage to supplant Hutchinson as the governor of Massachusetts. One of the new governor's first acts was to send a messenger to call on Samuel Adams, for the purpose of endeavoring to stop his opposition - by fear.
We can best understand the spirit of what happened by quoting the conversation between Col. Fenton (the messenger sent by Gage) and Adams.
Col. Fenton: "I have been authorized by Governor Gage, to assure you, Mr. Adams, that the governor has been empowered to confer upon you such benefits as would be satisfactory [endeavor to win Adams by promise of bribes], upon the condition that you engage to cease in your opposition to the measures of the government. It is the governor's advice to you, Sir, not to incur the further displeasure of His Majesty. Your conduct has been such as makes you liable to penalties of an Act of Henry VIII, by which persons can be sent to England for trial for treason, or misprision of treason, at the discretion of a governor of a province. But, by changing your political course, you will not only receive great personal advantages, but you will make your peace with the King."
Samuel Adams had the choice of two decisions. He could cease his opposition, and receive personal bribes, or he could continue, and run the risk of being hanged!
Clearly, the time had come when Adams was forced to reach instantly, a decision which could have cost his life. Adams insisted upon Col. Fenton's word of honor, that the colonel would deliver to the governor the answer exactly as Adams would give to him.
Adam's answer: "Then you may tell Governor Gage that I trust I have long since made my peace with the King of Kings. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. And, tell Governor Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him, no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."
When Governor Gage received Adams' caustic reply, he flew into rage, and issued a proclamation which read, "I do, hereby, in His Majesty's name, offer and promise his most gracious pardon to all persons who shall forthwith lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects, excepting only from the benefit of such pardon, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, whose offences are too flagitious a nature to admit to any other consideration but that of condign punishment."
As one might say, in modern slang, Adams and Hancock were "on the spot!" The threat of the irate governor forced the two men to reach another decision, equally as dangerous. They hurriedly called a secret meeting of their staunchest followers. After the meeting had been called to order, Adams locked the door, placed the key in his pocket, and informed all present that it was imperative that a congress of the colonists be organized, and that no man should leave the room until the decision for such a congress had been reached.
Great excitement followed. Some weighed the possible consequences of such radicalism. Some expressed grave doubt as to the wisdom of so definite a decision in defiance of the Crown. Locked in that room were two men immune to fear, blind to the possibility of failure; Hancock and Adams. Through the influence of their minds, the others were induced to agree that, through the Correspondence Committee, arrangements should be made for a meeting of the First Continental Congress, to be held in Philadelphia, September 5, 1774.
Remember this date. It is more important than July 4, 1776. If there had been no decision to hold a Continental Congress, there could have been no signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Before the first meeting of the new Congress, another leader in a different section of the country, was deep in the throes of publishing a "Summary View of Rights of British America." He was Thomas Jefferson, of the Province of Virginia, whose relationship to Lord Dunmore (representative of the Crown in Virginia) was as strained as that of Hancock and Adams with their governor.
Shortly after his famous Summary Rights was published, Jefferson was informed that he was subject to prosecution for high treason against His Majesty's government. Inspired by the threat, one of Jefferson's colleagues, Patrick Henry, boldly spoke his mind, concluding his remarks with a sentence which shall remain forever a classic, "If this be treason, then make the most of it."
It was such men as these who, without power, without authority, without military strength, without money, sat in solemn consideration of the destiny of the colonies, beginning at the opening of the First Continental Congress, and continuing at intervals for two years - until on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee arose, addressed the Chair, and to the startled Assembly made this motion:
"Gentlemen, I make the motion that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, that they be absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be totally dissolved."
Lee's astounding motion was discussed fervently, and at such length that he began to lose patience. Finally, after days of argument, he again took the floor, and declared, in a clear, firm voice, "Mr. President, we have discussed this issue for days. It is the only course for us to follow. Why then, sir, do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and to conquer, but to reestablish the reign of peace, and of law."
Before his motion was finally voted upon, Lee was called back to Virginia, because of serious family illness, but before leaving, he placed his cause in the hands of his friends, Thomas Jefferson, who promised to fight until favorable action was taken. Shortly thereafter the President of the Congress (Hancock) appointed Jefferson as chairman of a committee to draw up a Declaration of Independence.
Long and hard the committee labored on a document which would mean, when accepted by the Congress, that every man who signed it would be signing in his own death warrant, should the colonies lose in the fight with Great Britain, which was sure to follow.
The document was drawn, and on June 28, the original draft was read before the Congress. For several days it was cussed, altered, and made ready. On July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson stood before the Assembly, and fearlessly read the most momentous decision ever placed upon paper.
"When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. . ."
When Jefferson finished, the document was voted upon, accepted, and signed by the fifty-six men, every one staking his own life upon his decision to write his name. By that decision came into existence a nation destined to bring to mankind forever the privilege of making decisions.
Analyze the events which led to the Declaration of Independence, and be convinced that this nation, which now holds a position of commanding respect and power among all nations of the world, was born of a decision created by a Master Mind consisting of fifty-six men. Note well the fact that it was their decision which insured the success of Washington's armies, because the spirit of that decision was in the heart of every soldier who fought with him, and served as a spiritual power which recognizes no such thing as failure.
Note also (with great personal benefit) that the power which gave this nation its freedom is the selfsame power that must be used by every individual who becomes self-determining.
(From Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich") Please hit like and share if you learned something from this.