From allegiance to autonomy — America’s journey

You can be proud of the American restraint and leadership. Here they were, enduring increased “taxation without representation” and being controlled by the 4,000 “Redcoat” soldiers sent from Britain. Yet in October, 1774, the colonial leaders were meeting with representatives and sent a  compromise proposal to London. They considered themselves to be British subjects and wished to be treated as such.

“To these grievous acts and measures Americans cannot submit, but in hopes that their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state in which both countries found happiness and prosperity…”

Their willingness to compromise was rejected by the king.

So representatives (including Daniel Coley and Timothy Benedict from Ridgefield) gathered again in 1775 in the Second Continental Congress. They realized that “the people of these colonies are not, and from their local circumstances cannot be, represented in the House of Commons in Great Britain.”

They came determined to defend “the Rights and Liberties of ye United American Colonies. Allegiance was our sentiment toward Great Britain while she continued to act the part of a parent state; we felt ourselves happy in our connection with her, nor wished it to be dissolved; but our sentiments are altered, it is now the ardent wish of our soul that America may become a  free and independent state … could an accommodation now be affected, we have reason to think that it would be fatal to the liberties of America.”

So from the seeds of rebellion came the June 7, 1776 vote for independence: “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. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effectual measures* for forming foreign Alliances, that a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation.”

And from the Resolution, one month later, came the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776. The Declaration, signed by 55 representatives of the 13 colonies, lists in detail the “causes which impel the separation … the history of the king’s repeated injuries and usurpations.” In the Declaration of Independence the Americans put forward two earth-shaking propositions: that all men are created equal, and that government must not exist without the consent of the governed. In the Constitution we find the uniqueness of the first nation “built from scratch” in which we, the people, govern ourselves.

The connection between the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution is strong, but the difference is important to understand. The Declaration is WHY government should be limited, and the Constitution, adopted 11 years later, is HOW.

*This directive led to the “foreign Alliance” with France which sent gold and 5,000 Rochambeau troops to aid revolutionaries.

Josette Williams has been a Ridgefielder for 46 years. She is a former member of the Board of Selectmen and the Republican Town Committee.