Many Americans can easily recall the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence which enshrines life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the core ideals of the American republic. Fewer remember the last sentence in the Declaration which commits the signers to defending those ideals:

It reads, “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

56 men signed the Declaration. Five were captured by the British as traitors; 12 had their homes burned.

Nine fought and died from wounds in the Revolutionary War.

At the battle of Yorktown one of the signers, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was shelled by American artillery, and Nelson later died bankrupt.

In the course of our 235 years as a free Nation millions of Americans have given their lives and fortunes in defense of these ideals. Today, another 200,000 are overseas defending our freedoms having committed themselves even as the signers did.

In these difficult times it is good to remember there have been more difficult times in our history. And, from each challenge, America has emerged stronger because citizens possessed the courage to defend our freedoms.

Remember the Signers and all Americans who followed their example on this 235th Anniversary of the Founding of the Nation.

On behalf of the Naval Institute Professional Staff, best wishes for a warm, family Independence Day weekend.

Semper Fortis, Fidelis & Paratus

General Thomas L. Wilkerson, USMC (Ret.)

Chief Executive Officer

Posted by admin in History

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  • Not trying to be a skunk at the lawn party, but the famous “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” comes in the Declaration’s second sentence. The first sentence summarizes the reason that the Declaration was being written:

    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.

    [admin note: Fixed!]

  • I agree with your sentiment that Americans have yet to have sacrificed to keep our nation safe, and have relied on a few to man the walls for us. However, there is an inaccuracy. Only one of the signers Button Gwinnet of Georgia died of wounds; it was inflicted by one of his officers in a duel.

  • Isaac Cubillos

    Nelson’s house was not destroyed and still stands.

    [admin note: fixed!]

  • Thanks all for fixing my errors!

  • Byron

    Purely amazing to see the depth of knowledge around these parts. Makes me feel like a flea on the side of an elephant, it does.

    To the point,though, we should never forget why the Declaration was signed, nor why that ancient document is so important to this nation and it’s future.

  • Bill Rogers is a web-site that addresses Urban Legends. The history section has an interesting article that addresses the reality of many of the statements in the original post (including the two corrections already posted). The sentiment is good, many of the facts are wrong or out of context.