How would you describe the leadership styles of the patriots who led the American colonies to independence from Great Britain?
Participative? Situational? Collaborative? Command and control?
How about courageous?
When the initial battles with the English broke out in 1775, few colonists wanted complete independence from the Crown. Those who did were thought to be extremists and radicals, but by the following year, thanks in part to the writings of Thomas Paine — his bestseller “Common Sense” was published in early 1776 — and others, attitudes began to shift.
Independence fervor peaked on June 7 of that year when the Continental Congress, meeting at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia — now known as Independence Hall — was presented with a resolution calling for complete independence. The resolution was presented by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, his demand for AMEXIT.
Heated debate ensued. A vote was postponed until a five-man committee could meet to prepare a written argument justifying the break with England. The committee was made up of Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston from New York.
On July 2, the Continental Congress voted almost unanimously in favor of independence. New York initially abstained but later voted to support the declaration.
Mr. Adams wrote his wife that July 2 “will be celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival” and that this celebration should include “Pomp and Parades…Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations.”
On July 4th the Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence which was largely written by Mr. Jefferson. Even though the formal vote on the Declaration occurred two days later, Mr. Adams forever insisted that the true day to celebrate independence was July 2, and reportedly turned down invitations to participate in July 4 celebrations for years to come.
Ironically both Messrs. Jefferson and Adams died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary celebration.
These men, and many others were courageous. They took great risks for something they believed in. They did not always agree — in fact, there were many raucous debates and more than a few idle threats leading to the writing of the Declaration and, later, the Constitution. But agreement was reached because there were always devoted leaders who placed their deeply held beliefs in freedom and liberty, and the promise of a grand future free of oppression, ahead of their own egos, or political enrichment. They brokered compromise after compromise.
So, present day views regarding the mortal evils of political compromise aside, you could say, with accuracy, that our nation was born of compromise. Principled compromise.
The JohnGSelf + Partners team joins me in wishing you a joyous and safe July 4th celebration.
SelfPerspective Weekend Edition Podcast Airs Saturday
SelfPerspective Weekend Edition podcast will air on Saturday. There will be no blog post on Monday in observance of the holiday.
© 2020 John Gregory Self