[The Revolution.]

[American Loyalty.]

The Revolution was long in brewing. The discontent of the colonies at their treatment by the mother country was gradual in its growth. At first it seemed rather to inspire fitful protests and expostulations, than a desire to foster a deliberate quarrel. Even New England, settled by Pilgrims who had no strong reason for evincing loyalty and affection for the land whence they had been driven for opinion's sake, seemed to have become more or less reconciled to the dominion of British governors. There can be no doubt that the colonists, even down to within a brief period of the Declaration of Independence, hoped to retain their connection with Great Britain. Congress declared, even after armies had been raised to resist the red-coats, that this was not with the design of separation or independence. Even the mobs cried "God save the king!" Washington said that until the moment of collision he had abhorred the idea of separation: and Jefferson declared that, up to the 19th of April, 1775 (the date of the battle of Lexington), "he had never heard a whisper of a disposition to separate from Great Britain."

[Effect of the Stamp Act.]

The Stamp Act, and the similar acts which followed it, united the colonies in a spirit of resistance. They inspired Patrick Henry's eloquence in Virginia; they gave rise to the "tea-party" in Boston; they produced the Boston massacre; they led to the burning of the Gaspee in Narragansett Bay; they finally developed, no longer rioting, but open and flagrant rebellion at Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill. The colonies did not refuse to be taxed. They recognized the right of Great Britain to tax them. But they claimed that this right had its condition - that the taxed people should be represented in the body which held the taxing power. Had the colonies been permitted to send members to the British Parliament, and to have a voice in the deliberations of the government, the Revolution might never have taken place. But King George and his Tory ministers were obstinate to folly. They met protest with repression; in order to subjugate the colonies, they added tyranny to tyranny. The warnings of Townshend and Chatham were lost upon them, and at last the colonies, utterly despairing of a settlement with a power so deaf and so inconsiderate, launched into the storm of revolution.

 [Independence Hall.]

[Trumbull's Picture.]

Every American who pays a visit to Philadelphia should visit the plain, old-fashioned, sombre room known as "Independence Hall." Its dinginess is venerable; its relics are illustrious. In this hall have resounded the voices of Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Hancock, Randolph, - the whole circle of Revolutionary statesmen. On that table, which is pointed out to you, the famous Declaration was signed. From the walls historic faces gaze down upon you. Every relic has its record and its hint. In the square below, you see the place where the Philadelphians of 1776 listened to the reading of the Declaration from the Court House steps. No one can visit this hall without conjuring up in his fancy the memorable scene of the first of our "Fourths of July"; and, happily, a great painter, who knew many of the actors in it, has preserved its features on canvas. It is not difficult, standing in Independence Hall, and retaining Trumbull's picture in memory, to imagine very nearly the scene it presented.

[Signers of the Declaration.]

There were the long rows of plain uncushioned benches, extending up and down the sides, filled with men of all ages, some with wigs, some with powdered hair, some with unpowdered hair, all dressed in small-clothes, breeches, knee-buckles, long stockings, and buckled shoes; coats of blue, gray, and snuff color; venerable men like Franklin and Stephen Hopkins, men in the full vigor of middle life, like Samuel Adams and Roger Sherman, young men in the ardor and flush of lusty patriotism, like Thomas Jefferson, and Francis Hopkinson, and Robert Livingston, and John Hancock - the younger evidently predominating, alike in numbers and activity. The faces were solemn and grave, no doubt, though Dr. Franklin would have his genial joke about the necessity of their all hanging together, lest they should all hang, separately; deep silence prevailed, followed now and then by an excited stir among the benches.

[President Hancock.]

[The Continental Army.]

Then there was the President's table, a little aside from one end of the hall, with papers strewed over it, and by its side President Hancock, attired with dainty and aristocratic precision, his sword by his side, his wig perfectly dressed, his face earnest yet serene and bright. We can fancy, too, the commotion which arose, the leaning forward, the holding of the breath, then the dead silence, when the committee appointed to draw the Declaration advanced to the President's table. It was the moment of crossing the Rubicon. It was the burning of the ships behind them. From this moment there was to be no possibility of retreating. Independence declared, it still remained to conquer it. British troops burdened the soil; shiploads of them were at that moment crossing the Atlantic. The Continental army was but an armed rabble, with patriotism for their strongest weapon. And would the colonies, one and all, adhere, and "hang together"; or would the Declaration strike terror to timid hearts, and destroy its purpose by its very audacity?

[Thomas Jefferson.]


All this must have passed through the mind of each deputy as the illustrious committee of five stood before Hancock, at the President's desk. Foremost among them was Thomas Jefferson, the tallest, youngest, and ablest of the five; their chairman, and the author of the great document which he held in his hand. In his thirty-fourth year, Jefferson was then a fine specimen of the Virginian gentry, his tall form clad loosely in the small-clothes of the period, his bright red hair, unpowdered, gathered carelessly behind with a ribbon, his light blue eyes clear and calm, and his lips parted in a placid and confident smile. Next to him, side by side, stood Franklin and John Adams, sons of Massachusetts - the one risen from the printer's case, the other a prosperous country lawyer, descended from the good Puritan stock of John Alden. Franklin was already beyond three score and ten; his gray hair hung in long locks to his shoulders; his snuff-colored coat reached to his knees; his large, pleasant face must have encouraged the others on that fateful day, so did it shine with trust in the cause and confidence in its success.

[Roger Sherman.]

Pugnacity and determination were revealed in the short thick-set figure of John Adams; the round bald head, the firm mouth, the set eyes of the Braintree patriot, gave the idea that he was grimly and terribly in earnest. Square-headed old Roger Sherman was another figure well worth studying; a man, like the others, with the air of being rather resolved on, than resigned to, the step which was being made, and seriously prepared to take all consequences. And, to complete the group, there was the polished and scholarly Livingston of New York, almost a fop in dress and toilet, a model of elegance and fine courtesy, who, though serving as one of the committee, was absent when the Declaration was signed. The signing did not take place for several weeks after its adoption.

[The Declaration proclaimed.]

[British exasperation.]

Jefferson read the Declaration to the Congress, and it was accepted, with a few alterations, by the votes of the deputies of twelve of the colonies. New York alone abstained from voting. The bell of the State House rang out the tidings; the Declaration was read to a surging, excited crowd in the square; it was sent off in all directions by fleet messengers, and read at the head of each brigade of the Continental army; and the colonies now knew that the fight was to go on to the bitter end. Thenceforth there was no thought of patching a compromise with the mother country, or of returning to the old allegiance to the British crown. On the side of England, national pride and royal obstinacy urged forward every preparation to continue the struggle; and the voices of Chatham, Burke, and Fox were drowned amid the storm of exasperation which the Declaration had caused. A price was set upon the heads of Hancock and Samuel Adams, and Hessians were purchased to fill the insufficient corps of the red-coats.

[Consequences of the Declaration.]

Now the colonies were the United States, with a flag common to all, the symbol of a united nationality. Seldom has a written paper so moved the world. In our own history, the only document that can compare with it, in its momentous results, was the emancipation charter of Abraham Lincoln. Both required a courage that was nothing less than heroic: but the proclaimers of the Declaration of Independence risked life, family, property; engaged in an irreconcilable conflict against enormous odds; defied the greatest naval power in the world, and the richest nation, in pursuit, not of the material gain to be derived from the abrogation of a tax, but of national liberties which they were determined to secure at every hazard. The Declaration, indeed, was needed to combine the action of the patriots, and to give them a definite and certain purpose. It was the bond that pledged them to harmony, and which confined them to the alternative of "liberty or death."