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Independence Day 2003

July 04, 2003

Is there really anyone who likes to pay taxes? Probably not. Is there anyone who's willing to go to war over taxes and how they're levied?

Some now-famous Americans did, more than 200 years ago, in a conflict that grew into the Revolutionary War. It is good to remember their sacrifices as we celebrate Independence Day.

In the 1770s America was not a sovereign nation, but a colony of Great Britain, ruled by a king named George III. Though colonists were expected to pay certain taxes to the king, they had no meaningful representation in the English government.

After skirmishes in which American citizens threw a load of tea into Boston harbor to protest what they felt was an unfair tax and an incident in which British soldiers fired on a threatening crowd, public sentiment turned in favor of separating from England.

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On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 members of the Second Continental Congress. By doing so, they risked being executed as traitors.

The declaration's words are so familiar to many that they may now seem like clichs. But back then, on a planet ruled mostly by monarchies, the idea of citizens asserting the right to "alter or to abolish" a government that did not serve their needs or respect their rights was truly revolutionary.

But the celebration that greeted the document was soon followed by hardship, as the war dragged on until 1783. To get an idea of what it entailed, read about George Washington's encampment at Valley Forge, Pa.

Nearly 12,000 tired, cold and hungry men arrived in late December. Before the next summer, 2,000 had died on typhoid, dysentery and pneumonia.

What should citizens do to honor those who gave years of service and even their lives to create a country where "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are every citizen's guarantee?

Just this: Remember those who sacrificed so much to get America this far and resolve that when the next call for help goes out, you will answer.

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