EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 4, 2014

Editorial: Celebrating the birth of our nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Two hundred thirty-eight years ago, a nation was born.

On July 4, 1776, Congress approved the final text of the Declaration of Independence and thus created the United States of America.

The brand-new country formally declared its independence from England. Representatives from the original 13 colonies, 56 of them, signed the document, including three from New Hampshire.

Granite Staters ought to take some special pride when the country celebrates Independence Day.

New Hampshire has long been known for the fierce independence of its residents and its lawmakers. It remains the only state without a mandatory adult seat-belt law, it has no income tax and its state House of Representatives is the largest in the country.

Some six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, New Hampshire already had declared its independence from the motherland, a sign of things to come.

Three men represented New Hampshire at the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration.

But not a single one of them was born in New Hampshire.

Matthew Thornton, whose name is familiar to local residents, was born in Ireland. He lived in Maine and Massachusetts before, as a doctor, he was named surgeon to Granite State troops in 1745.

Thornton was president of the New Hampshire House and a Superior Court judge. He died in Newburyport at the age of 89.

Another physician, Josiah Bartlett, was born across the border in Amesbury. He served on New Hampshire's Supreme Court and as governor.

Perhaps less well known was William Whipple, born in Maine, a sailor he made a fortune and answered the call to public service early and often. He was Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia and battled at Saratoga and Stillwater.

Whipple died in the saddle at age 55 while traveling for the circuit court.

Despite their places of birth, New Hampshire can proudly lay claim to all three men.

The Massachusetts signers of the Declaration were perhaps better known.

Foremost among these five men and the first to sign was John Hancock, a wealthy businessman who, with Samuel Adams was among the chief fomenters of rebellion in Massachusetts. When Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress, centered his large, flamboyant signature on the Declaration, he was alleged to have commented that King George would be able to read it without his spectacles.

Other signers for Massachusetts were the cousins Samuel and the future president John Adams; Elbridge Gerry, the future vice president and inventor of "gerrymandering"; and the jurist Robert Treat Paine.

Take time between the cookouts, the beach and the fireworks to consider how significant the day is. And consider, too, our region's role on this historic occasion.

Consider the document signed by the 56 men and the significance of its text.

"When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."