Even as Tom Jefferson drafted the words for the document, there was discordant music in the background. In the end, of the 13 colonies, nine voted yes, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No. Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.
And so, it was on this basis, that the "United" States decided proclaim itself.
Of all the oratory and debate that on "our" independence, nothing in the literature surpasses the speech by abolitionist, editor and former slave, Frederick Douglass, whose oration about July 4th deserves to be much better known.
His famous speech has the title, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" It was delivered on July 5, 1852, eight years before the eruption of the war against the Confederacy's secession from the union.
Douglass began slowly:
"Who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning".
The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way"The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, the distance between this platform and the slave plantation, from which I escaped, is considerable -- and the difficulties to be overcome in getting from the latter to the former, are by no means slight. That I am here to-day is, to me, a matter of astonishment as well as of gratitude. You will not, therefore, be surprised, if in what I have to say I evince no elaborate preparation, nor grace my speech with any high sounding exordium. With little experience and with less learning, I have been able to throw my thoughts hastily and imperfectly together; and trusting to your patient and generous indulgence, I will proceed to lay them before you.
This, for the purpose of this celebration, is the 4th of July. It is the birthday of your National Independence, and of your political freedom. This, to you, is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God. It carries your minds back to the day, and to the act of your great deliverance; and to the signs, and to the wonders, associated with that act, and that day. This celebration also marks the beginning of another year of your national life; and reminds you that the Republic of America is now 76 years old. I am glad, fellow-citizens, that your nation is so young."
He went on and on, praising the founders and sympathizing with their cause before dropping the bomb he had, no doubt, been invited to drop--a condemnation of slavery a "peculiar institution"--what a euphemism that was-- that some say now was one prime reason for the revolt in the colonies, based on the opposition to Britain's decision to end its inhumanity, a choice many of the signatories to the Declaration opposed, no doubt, in part, because they, with whatever doubts or trepidations, held slaves themselves.