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How The Declaration of Independence Inspired George Washington’s Underdog Army to Win



Declaration of Independence

Deeply moved by the power of the Declaration’s words, George Washington ordered copies sent to all generals in the Continental Army.

Author Scott Powell profile



Most Americans celebrating the July 4 holiday today don’t fully realize that the power of ideas in the Declaration of Independence was the critical enabling factor for the Americans to win the War of Independence. Compared to the British professional military, the American colonial army was simply no match—it was undermanned, underfunded, underequipped, inexperienced, and undertrained. At the outset of the war, the British Royal Navy had 270 warships deployed in American waters, while the Continental Navy had seven ships.

On July 4, 1776, in what is now Manhattan, New York, Gen. George Washington was preparing for battle. He had no idea that a Declaration of Independence was being released in Philadelphia that day, as he pondered the sobering stream of British ships coming through the Narrows and anchoring off Staten Island in New York Harbor.

A month before, Washington had written a letter to his brother, saying: “We expect a very bloody summer of it in New York… If our cause is just, as I do most religiously believe it to be, the same Providence which in many instances appeared for us, will still go on to afford its aid.”

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, it was also a somber day when those 56 members of the Continental Congress committed to signing the Declaration of Independence. Each knew that becoming a signatory put a death warrant on their heads for being a traitor to Great Britain.

Thus, the first Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4 did not have signatures identifying the committed delegates. Rather, there were two signatures on that first document: John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, and Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress.

It took more than two weeks for the Declaration to be “engrossed”—that is, written on parchment in a clear hand. Many of the 56 delegates to the Continental Congress who had agreed to sign the document did so on August 2, but new delegates replaced some six of the original delegates and an additional seven delegates could not sign until many weeks later. Recognizing the long odds against the small and underequipped American colonial army defeating the British army and navy—the most formidable military force in the world—the Continental Congress decided to hold the 56-signatory Declaration for release at a later time.

Washington’s First Read of the Declaration

Washington was in New York preparing its defense when on July 6, 1776, a courier arrived to deliver a copy of the two-signature Declaration of Independence that had been released in Philadelphia several days before. Deeply moved by the power of the Declaration’s words, Washington ordered copies sent to all generals in the Continental Army and that chaplains be hired for every regiment to assure that, “every officer and man, will endeavor so to live and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier, defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.” 

Like the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration was a true covenant with God of absolute commitment, with its last sentence invoking: “with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Washington read the Declaration repeatedly and became so moved that, on July 9, he called a halt to his troops’ battle preparations and announced a respite and gathering to read the Declaration to his soldiers and the townspeople. The crowd hustled down to lower Manhattan, where they gazed out at a forest of masts of the British ships at anchor in New York harbor. After the reading, when a few of the rowdies in the group spotted a statue of King George III, they pulled it down, to others’ tumultuous cheers.

By August, about 35,000 professionally trained and well-equipped British and Hessian mercenary soldiers had arrived on some 400 British ships. The number of soldiers under Washington’s command had some turnover since leaving Boston, but had grown slightly to about 18-19,000, with recent enlistees—primarily farmers, fishermen, and artisans—having no training.

When engagement with the British finally commenced on Long Island on August 27, the colonial army was quickly overwhelmed, with more than 1,000 taken prisoners. Washington decided to retreat from Long Island back to Manhattan to regroup in hope of fighting more successfully another day.

Constant Defeats, and Only a Few Key Victories

It was not to be over the next two months, as Washington’s troops faced two more devastating routs in New York—with six times more casualties than the British suffered and several thousand taken as prisoners. Washington was forced to leave New York in total and abject defeat.

It had been decided to place half the remaining American troops active in the New York campaigns under generals Lee and Gates. Washington would lead the rest and make their way south through New Jersey to Philadelphia. But for a gallant few among some 3,500 marching with Washington, nearly all thought the War for Independence was lost. Washington’s greatest challenge then was maintaining the morale, confidence, and loyalty of his diminished and discouraged troops.

Crossing over into Pennsylvania in early December, Washington’s army encamped on the banks of the Delaware River. Washington’s faith in God’s providence and his belief in the cause of independence sustained him, but he knew at this point only a decisive victory could bring about a reversal of fortune.

Just days later, intelligence from a spy revealed that a large contingent of German Hessians under British command was occupying Trenton, only nine miles away. Washington immediately began planning what would become the legendary crossing of the Delaware on Christmas night to march and strike at Trenton.

The surprise attack that ensued early the morning of December 26 was a resounding victory. A few days later, another intelligence tip was delivered, and Washington decided to make a second surprise attack on British regulars encamped in nearby Princeton.

Leading from the front, Washington displayed such courage, “with a thousand deaths flying around him,” that his men fought with greater vigor than ever and inspired the local townspeople to grab their arms and join in the fight. In short order there were many more British than American casualties, resulting in defeat with the surrender of some 300 Redcoats.

Victory Inspired by the Declaration’s Ideas

Perceiving this dual miracle as a harbinger of more victories to come, and perhaps with many recognizing the power of providence and the vital importance in the ideas manifest in the Declaration, the Continental Congress ordered the reprinting and dissemination to all the colonies of the now-famous 56-signature Declaration of Independence on January 18, 1777—more than six months after the original document had been drafted and approved.  

The Revolutionary War would grind on for nearly four more years. In the end, although Washington’s continental army lost six major battles and won only three, Washington’s courage, sacrifice, and persistence inspired and sustained everyone around him.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. Two had sons serving in the Continental Army who died, and another five signers were captured and tortured as traitors, and later died. Twelve of the 56 Declaration signers had their homes looted and destroyed.

A Willingness to Sacrifice All, If Necessary

The Americans’ willingness to sacrifice was on display during the battle of Yorktown from September 28 to October 19, 1781—the decisive and final battle in the war for independence. Thomas Nelson, Jr. a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who succeeded Thomas Jefferson as governor of Virginia, was a native of Yorktown.

When Nelson learned that his Yorktown home had been taken over and occupied as the military headquarters for British Gen. Charles Cornwallis, he urged Washington to aim his cannons and open fire on his own home. Nelson’s home was destroyed and a few weeks later Cornwallis surrendered and acknowledged the American final victory for its complete independence.

In the minds of many, Washington remains the greatest Founding Father because of his fearless courage in battle, his incredible perseverance against unfathomable odds, and his faith in Providence that provided protection and empowered him to achieve the impossible.

As we reflect on the meaning of July 4 this year, we should celebrate and take heart that the same good ideas and principles—natural God-given rights—expressed in the Declaration of Independence that inspired Washington—are as today as they were then. With renewed courage, those who believe in these ideas will be empowered to make good triumph over evil.

Scott S. Powell is senior fellow at Discovery Institute. This article is a vignette adapted from his acclaimed book, “Rediscovering America,” now Amazon’s No. 1 new release in the history genre. Reach him at

Here is an EXCELLENT Comment I received Yesterday.

waving flag david andre davison said:

Regarding Academic: Constitution Is ‘Confederate Symbol,’ Censor ItNew WhatDidYouSay Logo

As a student of History, I get enjoyment out of modern society trying to rewrite the past to suit their views. History is what really happened, not a revision that suits our present philosophy.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners. Abraham Lincoln wanted to send slaves back to Africa. Many southerners didn’t even own slaves. The Civil War was fought over tariffs and states rights, not only slavery…

What does the future hold for History? Will we re-write Pearl Harbor as not to offend our Japanese friends and population? Will we erase all evidence of the unfair encroachment of Native American villages and lands, along with broken peace treaties? What about the way we “Stole” Florida from Spain and the Seminoles, or the southwest from Mexico?

Re-writing history and removing monuments and symbols only destines us to repeat our mistakes through ignorance.

Just my two-cents!

I would like to hear from more of you. This was an excellent comment, based on obvious study of history.

Thank You Again, david andre davison

Jerry Broussard of

freedom combo 2

Delegates begin planning for changes to U.S. Constitution

INDIANAPOLIS | Representatives and senators from 29 states met Thursday in the Indiana Statehouse to begin planning for the first state-led revisions to the U.S. Constitution since the nation’s fundamental governing document was enacted in 1789.

The significance of the work undertaken by The Mount Vernon Assembly to prepare for a future Convention of the States was not lost on the 94 official and participating delegates, mostly Republicans, who filled the House chamber.

“Nothing like this has occurred in over two centuries, though certainly the founders of this nation assumed it would have happened long ago,” said Indiana Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, an organizer of the meeting.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution requires Congress call a Convention of the States for proposing constitutional amendments if legislatures in two-thirds of the states (34 states) request one. If the convention approves an amendment, it then can be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states) and added to the Constitution without additional congressional approval.

However, because an Article V convention never has been called, there are no clear procedures on how it would begin, what rules the convention would follow or whether it could be limited in scope.

The Mount Vernon Assembly, which organized last December at George Washington’s Virginia estate and is planning to change its name to the Assembly of State Legislatures, has taken it upon itself to start answering those questions to ensure a future Convention of the States gets off on the right foot.

“It has been a failure on the part of state legislatures for not stepping up for the past 200 years and saying, here’s how we’re going to do it, so that’s what we’re doing,” said state Rep. Chris Kapenga, a Wisconsin Republican.

“It’s time we accept the responsibility given us because there’s little debate in state legislatures, or in the public, that something’s not right in Washington.”

Throughout the morning, delegates discussed their organizing principles and whether they were being too deliberate in their planning.

Kapenga pushed back on the few lawmakers who wanted to jump ahead to debating amendment proposals that someday could be considered by a Convention of the States.

“This is the Constitution of the United States — we have to be very cautious and go through this process where we make sure anything that we put down is debated and discussed, and debated and discussed, and the final product is solid,” Kapenga said.

In the afternoon, delegates organized into four committees to begin tackling detailed planning questions for a Convention of the States, including how many delegates each state should have, whether states must send Congress an identical request and whether past state calls for Article V conventions, such as those submitted by Indiana in 1861 and 1979, are still valid.

State Sen. Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte, was appointed co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He will help shape answers to those questions and others ahead of the assembly’s December meeting, where its proposed rules for a Convention of the States will be approved.

Ultimately, the Convention of the States, if one ever is called, must decide whether to accept the rules and procedures proposed by the Assembly of State Legislatures.

Long said regardless of that decision, the work of planning and preparing for a convention has reminded states of their rights under America’s federalist system of government and their role in the constitutional amendment process.

“States’ rights has never been, nor should it ever be, a partisan issue,” Long said. “It is instead a constitutionally based concept that has made us the great country that we are today — 50 independent states, governed separately but united together.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Executive Orders: Carving a Path to Dictatorship

Posted by

Executive Orders, issued by the current sitting US President at the time, are nothing new to America.  In fact, our first President, George Washington, issued 8 of them during his presidency.  From my research, it is generally understood that Executive Orders stem from two areas of the US Constitution, and both references that substantiate Executive Orders are fairly weak.  As one website explains:

Presidents have been issuing executive orders since 1789 even though the Constitution does not explicitly give them the right to do so. However, vague wording in Article II Section 1 and Article II Section 2 gives the president this privilege. Executive orders also include National Security directives and Homeland Security Presidential Directives.

A well-referenced Wikipedia entry further illustrates the point:

Although there is no constitutional provision nor statute that explicitly permits executive orders, there is a vague grant of “executive power” given in Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 of the Constitution, and furthered by the declaration “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” made in Article II, Section 3, Clause 5. Most executive orders use these Constitutional reasonings as the authorization allowing for their issuance to be justified as part of the President’s sworn duties, the intent being to help direct officers of the U.S. Executive carry out their delegated duties as well as the normal operations of the federal government: the consequence of failing to comply possibly being the removal from office

Throughout history, Executive Orders have been responsible, at times, for drastically altering the lives of the American populace.  Perhaps the most heinous example being EO 9066, issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt, which was ultimately responsible for the internment of more than 60,000 American citizens of Japanese descent, and over 10,000 of German and Italian ancestry. That seems like a lot of power in the hands of one man and his administration.  Unfortunately, it seems that the use of Executive Orders is set to increase, further eroding the Constitutional principles that this nation was founded upon.

In a recent article published by the Daily Caller, Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has promised to give Obama a number of Executive Orders to sign; in fact, stating that Executive Orders should be number one on the agenda for her newly formed Full Employment Caucus.

To give you an example of how Obama has used this extraordinary power in the past, one only needs to look here.  In this case, Obama exercised Executive Privilege, but it really amounts to a de facto Executive Order.  The abuse of EO’s, by this administration, is particularly alarming when one discovers Obama’s history of deceit.

Are Executive Orders leading our nation into bondage?  I suppose that if for each one of us to decide.  I do know, however, whenever a president of any nation can rule by fiat, that their actions are protected by the very office that they serve, that nation is on a slippery slope to dictatorship.  Allow me to leave you with the words of one of our greatest Founding Fathers:

“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day. But a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrations), too plainly proves a deliberate systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.” – Thomas Jefferson  

About Jim White

Jim is the owner and editor of Northwest Liberty News.  He is a patriot who could no longer ignore the Founding Fathers whispering in his ear to take action and his goal is to inspire you to take action.

George Washington Gives Model of Presidential Leadership

– The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation –

George Washington Gives Model of Presidential Leadership

Posted By Rich Tucker On September 6, 2012 @ 10:48 am In First Principles |

The old joke about baseball in the District of Columbia was that Washington is “first in war, first in peace, and last in the league.” This slyly played off the age-old description of George Washington himself: “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

This year’s Nationals are running away with their division, so the joke finally feels dated. But George Washington himself remains a timeless hero who still deserves the full devotion of the American people.

First in war? “Through force of character and brilliant political leadership,” writes Heritage’s Matthew Spalding, “Washington transformed an underfunded militia into a capable force that, although never able to take the British army head-on, outwitted and defeated the mightiest military power in the world.” Spalding’s essay about Washington [2] has just been reissued as part of The Heritage Foundation’s series on people who’ve shaped American political thought [3].

First in peace? “As our first President, Washington set the precedents that define what it means to be a constitutional executive. He was a strong, energetic President but always aware of the limits on his office; he deferred to authority when appropriate but aggressively defended his prerogatives when necessary.”

First in the hearts of his countrymen? True then: “The vast powers of the presidency, as one delegate to the Constitutional Convention wrote, would not have been made as great ‘had not many of the members cast their eyes towards General Washington as president; and shaped their ideas of the powers to be given to a president, by their opinions of his virtue.’”

True now, as another presidential election approaches: “We take for granted the peaceful transferal of power from one President to another, but it was Washington’s relinquishing of power in favor of the rule of law—a first in the annals of modern history—that made those transitions possible.”

George Washington twice voluntarily surrendered power to return to a peaceful life on his Mount Vernon estate. The ruler he helped vanquish, King George III, called him “the greatest character of the age.” The capital city he gave his name to is renowned as the defender of freedom and opportunity.

As John Adams put it, Washington’s example “will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens, and men, not only in the present age, but in future generations, as long as our history shall be read.”

More than a century after Washington died, Woodrow Wilson [4] attempted to refound the United States on progressive principles. His experiment is still going on today. That explains why Washington remains so crucial: His guiding principles came from the written Constitution and Declaration of Independence, not some unwritten, “living” constitution.

Let us learn the first President’s lessons and move toward a more Washingtonian governance.

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation:

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