HILLSBOROUGH: Declaration still inspires Americans

    Today is July 1.
    It is now officially Fourth of July weekend.
    This is time to celebrate the birth of a nation and moreover the spirit of independence that inspires people from around the world.
    What defines American independence? Is it the founding of a nation or the result of a rebellion from a tyrant? In the case of the United States of America, it is both.
    July 4, 1776, marks the moment in history in which brave men signed the Declaration of Independence, declaring King George III of England a tyrant and separating from him.
    The document was then distributed across towns along the East Coast and read aloud by town criers.
    The words of the document inspired people everywhere, creating a united spirit that ultimately defeated an empire.
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the Declaration of Independence reads.
    The representatives of “these United States” boldly declared: “the history of the present king of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations.”
    The time leading up to July 4, 1776, was marked by war and great sacrifices within the colonies.
    Colonialists were rising up for independence while fighting the British Empire to gain sovereignty, going back to Dec. 16, 1773, when the Boston Tea Party showed the pent-up anger of the colonies.
    On April 19, 1775, the first shots of the American Revolutionary War were fired at the Massachusetts battles of Lexington and Concord.
    Several months later, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were among the lead writers who composed the Declaration of Independence.
    On July 4, 1776, — although some historians say it was two days earlier — representatives from each colony, from South Carolina to New Hampshire and from New Jersey to Virginia, signed the Declaration of Independence.
    It would five years of war before Oct. 19, 1781, when British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, marking the end of hostilities.
    An independent United States of America was recognized at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. America was at last a nation.
    While 235 years have passed since the summer of 1776, we honor all those who declared independence and fought to gain American sovereignty.
    We thank the signers of the Declaration of Independence, especially those representing New Jersey that day — Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart and Abraham Clark.
    We have a wonderful nation, offering to all “certain unalienable rights” including human dignity and freedom. The world admires and models us. We should be proud and celebrate this weekend.
    Happy Fourth of July!