Today is the 4th of July. And what a quintessential American day it is! It’s a time for picnics, playing on the beach, cookouts and fireworks. This day also affords us the opportunity to reflect on the American Revolution and thank our Founding Fathers for their courage, tenacity and their forward-thinking that gave us a foundation for what we have today
I have a special connection to the American Revolution. My three times great-grandfather was in the thick of it and my older brother, James, was named after him. Lt. James Campen was in the 2nd North Carolina Regiment and entered the conflict in 1777. He was wounded and became a prisoner of war at the Siege of Charleston and on June 14, 1781, he was exchanged to the American Army for a British Officer. On a trip to the National Archives, I found out that he ended his military career as a Captain although I cannot find the dates of his promotion.
It’s wonderful that I could find out these facts about his life, but I wish he’d have kept a diary as I’d like to know who he was and how he thought. What was his personal motivation for joining the revolution? What kind of hardships did he endure? In what ways did the war change him?
But today, I am happy knowing that he was there and lived through the ordeal. And I am grateful for the commitment to freedom that he and his fellow soldiers displayed during those difficult times.
What would my life be like today if he and his compatriots would have made a different choice?
Their efforts not only made a difference here in America, but it impacted countries all over Europe.
Many European liberation movements gained momentum as a result of the American Revolution. European revolutionaries held many of the same ideals as the American founding fathers, and consequently associated themselves with the American cause. The most famous case was the French Revolution. While serving as ambassador to France, in Paris in 1789, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “the American war seems first to have awakened the thinking part of this nation in general from the sleep of despotism in which they were sunk.” Our example also motivated Ireland to demand more freedoms from Great Britain. In Italy, our example inspired nationalists in Italy to unite the city-states under a republican government, and Germany attempted to establish a constitutional monarchy.
How different would the world be if we would have left well-enough alone and not fought for freedom?
Because of our forefathers, we as Americans are able to declare with one voice that: "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."
My grateful thanks to my three times great grandfather, James Campen, and ALL who risked their lives, their sacred honor and fortunes so that I, and my descendants may enjoy living in a land of the free and home of the brave!
Happy 4th of July!
For a complete transcript of the Declaration of Independence visit: http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/