On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress held a meeting at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia and passed a formal resolution declaring, “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States.” That was it!
The following day John Adams wrote to his beloved wife, Abigail:
“July 3, 1776
“Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects . . . .
“But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, 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 God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
“You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”
Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, “Had a Declaration…” [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
The following year, after much more blood had been shed, Adams made the following comment in his letter to Abigail of April 26th:
“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it! If you do not, I shall repent it in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it!”
If Adams were alive in 2017, I believe he would be disappointed that Americans have strayed so far from the principles of their founding.