July 4, 1776 was and is a huge day in American history, but few of us truly observe how big that day was 232 years ago. You see, when John Hancock made such a big deal out of signing his name in the largest signature to be found on the Declaration of Independence, he sent the largest message of any of the signers of that document to the crown of England. What he and all of the other signers had done was commit formal and very public treason against England. From that moment on, he and the rest of the signers were subject to being shot or hung if they had been arrested by the soldiers of the crown.
To truly understand the significance of their act, one has to realize that these men had lived their entire lives under the rule of the king of England. Most, if not all, of these men were not young men by any means. Most were older than 50. In common parlance, they knew better than anyone else the severity of their actions, but they pursued them anyway. They and their fellow colonists were completely fed up with the way their king was ruling them and their new country. They saw this declaration of independence as their only hope to gaining freedom from the tyranny, as they saw it, that they were being forced to live under with the rule of the British crown.
I don’t believe that Hancock or any of the rest of his fellow signers of the Declaration of Independence went to any picnics or baseball games or fireworks displays on July 4, 1776. Although an exhilarating day in their lives in some ways, it was also a rather sad day for a lot of them as they realized that they had basically disowned the crown of England.
So as you pack up your potato salad and fried chicken for that Fourth of July picnic, take a moment and reflect on the peril our forefathers set themselves up for when they signed that document 232 years ago. During your festivities you may want to raise another one to celebrate their bravery for their foresight in having the courage of their convictions to sign that great document.
Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.