On Dec. 4, 1800, merely a few weeks after moving into the building in the Capitol, Congress — being ever so thankful unto a benevolent God who had faithfully stood by them, coming to their rescue time and time again when they needed it the most — decided that the building would additionally serve as a church.
And thus it was that, come Sundays for many years thereafter, the newly made American people and their congressmen would reverently pay their respects during morning and evening services unto God and His Son, Jesus Christ, for the many miraculous happenings that enabled a bedraggled Continental Army consisting of farmers and clergymen the unlikelihood of becoming victorious over a seasoned British contingent and their Hessian mercenaries, who not only outnumbered the Americans two-to-one but also were better equipped.
One summer day in l776, the morning sun had barely topped the far distant eastern horizon while ushering forth bright, glorious rays that chased away the shadows and burnished the snow-white clouds a golden color when Thomas Jefferson stretched and yawned rather loudly, thus awakening the Massachusetts Congressman John Adams, who had been slumbering in a nearby chair.
As John arose and stretched, the other three committee members chosen by Congress to write and formulate the Declaration of Independence also arose, and then all five members went to refresh themselves and have a bite of breakfast before putting the finishing touches on the important document that was to be presented to Congress for enactment unto law.
Upon returning to the room, Jefferson reseated himself at the desk whence he had been writing almost all night long while the others, during the late hours of the night had, one by one, drifted off to sleep in their chairs whence they were seated. Almost immediately, Jefferson began reading what he himself had written during the night.
At first, during the evening before, they had all, as a group, attempted to compose the document, thus offering words, sentences and phrases in a haphazard manner at a fast clip, which did nothing but befuddle an otherwise brilliant Jefferson, who had been duly selected to pen the all-important document, which, unknown to everyone at the time, would be revered the world over. For many generations to come it would additionally be revered as a marvelous document not only known for its bravado, its masterful sense of purpose in declaring the freedom of its peoples, but also for its artistic structure: Its poetic verse, the beauty of the words therein, and the ingenius method in which the document was constructed and the powerful, majestic words that would change all history. And finally, it was written by a man whose penmanship was absolutely beautiful to behold and, without exception, was beyond reproach.
As Thomas began to read, he did so with exactness, thus emphasizing every word as it should have been pronounced for it was so necessary to expose the true genius of his workmanship. As a result, the committee was absolutely astounded, for they knew that Thomas had composed a masterpiece, a superlative document that would undoubtedly gain the attention of King George of England, thus declaring America’s freedom.
John Adams, however, had one suggestion, thus interrupting Jefferson, and Thomas dutifully poised and looked to John questionably.
“I would like to add the words ‘They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,’” explained John.
“Where?” Thomas inquired.
“Right after ‘All men are created equal,’” explained John.
And thus it was finalized and duly presented to Congress. On July 4, 1776, the document was duly signed by all representatives present, and it so happened that John Hancock was the first to sign and he did so with a flourish.
This July the Fourth remember those who risked all to gain our freedoms, and this Sunday emit a prayer in a church of your choice for our nation and those who defend it. God will smile on you.
Valkey M. Tiernan of Albany is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, served in the Air Force 20 years and retired from Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany in 1997.