To put our current situation in perspective, try to imagine yourself living at the beginning of July 1776. After chasing the British out of Boston over the preceding year, Washington and his rag-tag army sat in New York City and within a week the largest assembled fleet of warships in world history up until that time would enter the New York harbor carrying thousands of British Regulars and Hessian mercenaries intent on decimating the rebellion. Washington's untrained, disunited, and poorly equipped army would get virtually annihilated by the British in the Battle of Long Island and his battered army only narrowly escaped New York. Throughout the fall of 1776 and the beginning of winter, Washington's troops began leaving in droves through desertion or when their enlistment's expired. This prompted Thomas Paine to pen the pamphlet "The Crisis" on December 23, 1776, in which he famously wrote:
THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but "to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER" and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.
Washington had this read aloud to his men. It was a few days later, on Christmas night 1776, that Washington would famously cross the Delaware River and defeat a Hessian garrison in the Battle of Trenton. This victory and the victory a week later at the Battle of Princeton, would inspire the Continental Army and the nation and ultimately help turn the tide of the Revolutionary War.
Although John Adams was the most strident and most important advocate for independence in the Continental Congress he also understood that a severe price would have to be paid for it. And although no one, not even Adams, could ever truly imagine the misery and horror of war, as a principled thinker, he could still see past the short term suffering and imagine the glory and happiness of living in a country free of despotism. The dream of such a world was worth risking everything he held dear and his actions and those of our Founding Fathers should serve as inspiration to us today as we carry on our fight for Adam's vision and our own.
Here is John Adams' famous letter of July 3, 1776, in which he writes to his wife Abigail about his thoughts on celebrating Independence:
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.
The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family,
1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142