Depend on each other for independence
“There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.” — John Hancock, on signing the Declaration of Independence
Can you imagine the fear our Founding Fathers must have felt as they prepared to sign the Declaration of Independence?
Each knew their signature acted as a confession of sedition against the British government, and each knew they faced the death penalty just by scrawling their names.
Each also knew only war could lead to full independence. If they didn’t hang for sedition, they could end up killed in the melee.
Yet 56 brave men signed that noble document, anyway.
And the most important part of that statement, in my view, is the number 56.
The members of the Second Continental Congress knew they only had strength in numbers, that independence depended upon a fragile coalition sticking together.
John Hancock, president of the Congress, said so as he signed the document, according to a story in Smithsonian Magazine, telling Benjamin Franklin the congressmen must “hang together.”
“Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together,” Franklin famously replied, “or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
The 56 signers also needed the support of all 13 colonies — something they originally lacked.
According to a story in National Geographic, the South Carolina and Pennsylvania delegations originally opposed the resolution for independence, and Delaware deadlocked. In the final vote on the resolution on July 2, 1776, those colonies came around, but the New York delegation abstained because the New York government officially sought reconciliation with the king.
It was only after the Congress approved the final Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and had it printed in newspapers throughout the colonies, riling support from the populace, that New York came around and joined in signing the Declaration on Aug. 2, 1776.
Can you imagine how different this nation would be — if it would exist at all — if only some of the 13 colonies joined the effort? Might we have British colonies on the American mainland today?
Or what if the Declaration hadn’t been printed and won the support of the American people? What if the Continental Army had never grown to its 231,000-man force?
Without the colonies and their peoples coming together as they did, most historians think the whole effort would have crumbled, the Continental Army would have lost the war, the Declaration signers would have hanged separately, and the American east would remain part of the British Empire.
If that happened, the Southwest might still belong to Spain, the central U.S. to France, Alaska to Russia.
In short, independence depended on a great many people putting aside their differences and uniting under a common cause.
And that, if you ask me, would be the best way to celebrate Independence Day: not with fireworks and hot dogs and apple pie (though I wholeheartedly endorse all those things), but with some kind of reaching across the aisle — across the chasm — to someone of a different political persuasion to find common cause for the betterment of this nation.
That could happen many ways.
It could be Congress coming together for some kind of action — anything — to help prevent gun violence, especially in our schools. Or coming together to truly and quickly address inflation and the broken supply chain.
Or it could be the Michigan Legislature coming together to help lower gas prices and provide some kind of tax relief to Michigan families.
It could be those things, but it need not be so formal.
It could be a pro-gun advocate and an anti-gun advocate joining forces to launch a new mentoring program to prevent troubled youth from turning to violence. A Trumpian and a Bidenite linking up to launch a new recycling program. An anti-abortion advocate and an abortion rights supporter teaming up to support young mothers. A Democrat and a Republican joining forces to give rides to their neighbors who can no longer afford to fill up their own cars.
Even just two neighbors from opposing political stripes each agreeing to pull down their “f*** your candidate” flags to bring a bit more civility to the neighborhood.
Those sorts of things happen, but it needs to happen more.
We may not all hang separately without more unity, but this nation certainly loses something of itself with such froth-mouthed division tearing us apart.
We lose a bit of our heart and soul, and we need to get it back.
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-354-3112 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.