Lessons in Submission on July Fourth

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by the thirty three-year-old Thomas Jefferson, was ratified in Congress on July 2, 1776.

Disagreement over the Declaration

But on Monday July 1, the voices of opposition against rebellion spoke strongly in the historic halls of Philadelphia. At the sound of the opening gavel, John Dickinson a delegate from Pennsylvania, stood to his feet and spoke the unpopular words he knew would not be heeded. After all, he had repeated his stance for many months, and the delegates were very familiar with his resistance to colonial revolution. He said, “My conduct this day, I expect, will give the finishing blow to my once great … and now too diminished popularity … But thinking as I do on the subject of debate, silence would be guilt.” He continued in his attitude that revolt against Britain was premature and argued against violent measures. He again urged caution and further appeal to the crown with zeal and ardor.

Without voting consensus, Congress faced a deadlock. Dickinson’s dissent stymied the publication of Congressional intent. Without his vote for revolution, a free America might be fantasy. The vote was taken and rejected due to a handful of delegates following Dickinson’s lead. Congress would reconvene the next day, and the debate continued in bars and lodging rooms throughout the night as delegates argued and prevailed upon the opposition to submit to not only Congressional will, but to the prevailing will of the people in their colonies. The people of Pennsylvania had made it clear they supported revolution and wished the Pennsylvanian delegates to vote in support of independence.

What agreements were made that night were never recorded, but what was recorded was the absence of John Dickinson at the vote the following day. WIthout his presence, the vote passed with unanimous ease, and the American colonies declared independence from the Crown of Britain on Tuesday, July 2, 1776. That day, Dickinson submitted to his new American government and exercised his freedom by refraining from voting against his conscience. 

After a week of hashing out the wording, the Declaration was celebrated and read aloud to the gathered crowd at the Statehouse on July 8. It was endorsed with congressional signatures on August 2. Dickinson refused to add his pen. And yet…

When King George sent his army to attack New York, he was one of the first to wear the colors of the new nation and lead his troops in defense of American freedom.

Submission is doing the will of another even when you disagree.

In reviewing the history of John Dickinson, this man of strong conscience, I am reminded of myself. How many times have I expressed fierce opposition to those I am teamed up with; either at church, work or home? That is what I do, I disagree! Yet, even though I hold an opinion, can I support an idea I may not concur with? Can I don the uniform and take the risk to fight for a position not my own? I hope I am learning, because this is the core of strong, godly character.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. Hebrews 13:16-18

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:17-19

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:20-22

Submit yourselves to your masters with all respect. 1 Peter 2:18-19

A Note on the Rebellion to the Crown  

Students of history have agreed that the American Revolution was sparked by a broken contract. It was not the will of the people to rebel against their God-given authority, King George III; but in ignoring the pleas of the colonial delagate for fair representation and protection, King George evicted the colonies from British liberites and attacked the new government of the States of America. My thoughts today are not on the rightness of the American Revolution, althought I believe it was a righteous enterprise, but on the dissenting voice of John Dickinson.

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