The Declaration Of Independence





BY WASHINGTON IRVING



While danger was gathering round New York, and its inhabitants were

in mute suspense and fearful anticipations, the General Congress

at Philadelphia was discussing, with closed doors, what John Adams

pronounced: "The greatest question ever debated in America, and as great

as ever was or will be debated among men." The result was, a resolution

passed unanimously on the 2d of July; "that these United Colonies are,

and of right ought to be, free and independent States."



"The 2d of July," adds the same patriot statesman, "will be the most

memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it

will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary

festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by

solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with

pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and

illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this

time forth forevermore."



The glorious event has, indeed, given rise to an annual jubilee; but

not on the day designated by Adams. The FOURTH of July is the day of

national rejoicing, for on that day the "Declaration of Independence,"

that solemn and sublime document, was adopted.



Tradition gives a dramatic effect to its announcement. It was known

to be under discussion, but the closed doors of Congress excluded the

populace. They awaited, in throngs, an appointed signal. In the steeple

of the State House was a bell, imported twenty-three years previously

from London by the Provincial Assembly of Pennsylvania. It bore the

portentous text from Scripture: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the

land, unto all the inhabitants thereof." A joyous peal from that bell

gave notice that the bill had been passed. It was the knell of British

domination.





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