Observers at the time reported that it was stifling hot, not unusual for Philadelphia in July.
The windows of the fine Pennsylvania State House on Chestnut Street were obscured by heavy curtains. The environment inside must have been nearly unbearable when 56 men representing 13 English colonies gathered to debate, discuss and ultimately place their signatures on a document that could have just as easily been their death warrants.
Instead, the document we know as the Declaration of Independence, approved on this day in 1776, has been regarded in history as important as the Magna Carta and conferred national paternity on those signers.
While much of the document simply assailed George III of England for mistreating and usurping the rights of his subjects in the American colonies, it makes some opening statements borrowed from an English philosopher that have been the keystone of this nation for more than 200 years.
"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..."
Thomas Jefferson was not given to verbosity. He offered the Second Continental Congress 55 words that eloquently summed up the goal of the meeting and would subsequently be the philosophical foundation of our Constitution.
Today, we join together, Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Teas, conservatives and liberals and more ethnicities than you can count, to celebrate what makes all of us Americans.
In Warren, like many places around this land, we will do it with parades, picnics and pyrotechnics. The celebration that took place on that miserably hot day so many years ago in Philadelphia was not nearly so exuberant, signaled by the peeling of a bell hung over the building that would forever be known as Independence Hall, the bell simply as "Liberty."
It is important for us, while we celebrate, to remember why we celebrate.