On July 4th each year we celebrate “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Note that the word united is not capitalized. This is because the delegates signing the document knew that each of the 13 States was sovereign and were unifying only to make this declaration of their common desires.

Precisely one month prior to the signing of the document on August 2nd (Not July 4th as many believe), The delegates of the 13 colonies who met “in congress” had accepted a resolution put forward by Richard Henry Lee that stated “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

The Continental Congress, as it was named, adopted the more poetic Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, two days later, on July 4th. On July 19th, they decided to produce a handwritten copy to bear all the delegates’ signatures. The assistant of Charles Thompson, who was John Hancock’s Secretary, was Philadelphia Quaker and merchant Timothy Matlack, who penned the draft.

News of the Declaration of Independence arrived in London eight days later, on August 10.

You’d think a government would have something to say when a bunch of its subjects/citizens get together and tell them to bug off permanently, and of course, the British did.

In typically pompous language common to that era’s aristocracy, the reply rebukes the “misguided Americans” and “their extravagant and inadmissible Claim of Independency” (sic), and promises to reach out (eventually) to “his Majesty’s well-affected Subjects.”

It also urges people “…to reflect seriously upon their present Condition and Expectations, and to judge for themselves whether it be more consistent with their Honour and Happiness to offer up their Lives as a Sacrifice to the unjust and precarious Cause in which they are engaged, or to return to their Allegiance, accept the Blessings of Peace, and be secured in a free enjoyment of their Liberty and Properties…”

In other words, they told us to ‘give up this silly idea of self-rule, or we’re directing our occupying military forces to come and kill or imprison you, and seize all your stuff.’

In the face of that, the true courage and character of the Founding Fathers comes a bit more clearly into focus. Death, imprisonment, the loss of home and business, and poverty–common consequences for the Patriots–did not shake their convictions. Their personal sacrifices were many and real.

On a humorous note, the reply read aloud with the elongated ‘S’s pronounced like the ‘F’s they appear to be to our modern eyes is hilarious. Add an upper-crust British accent to that Elmer Fudd lisp, and Monty Python couldn’t do better.

Give it a shot — I doubt the Founding Fathers, many of whom were notorious wits themselves, would mind. And I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” than a good laugh with family and friends.

Happy Independence Day!