We are destined for Eternity but in this life we live in Time, which consists of the temporal trinity of past, present and future. The present consists of an often confusing series of disparate events, while the future is a deep mystery to us all. When we recall the past we try to make sense of it all, giving order in our mind and our recollections to what has happened to us individually and collectively.
When we look back at the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence from our vantage point of 234 years in the future, everything seems neat and orderly, an old story that we recall from school, books, television and films. Perhaps to some of us it seems a bit trite and boring. Such was not the way it all appeared to the Founding Fathers. For them it was their present, and a chaotic present it must have seemed. On July 3, 1776 the day before the Declaration was adopted by the Continental Congress, a huge British army of some 30,000 men, all regular troops and superbly equipped, began landing on Staten Island. To oppose them, Washington could only gather together an army of 10,000, many of them untrained militia. In the ensuing campaign, Washington’s army would be beaten time and again, often coming close to destruction. The British would seize New York City, holding it until the end of the war in 1783. So it went throughout the Revolution, with the patriots fighting an uphill battle against the mightiest empire since the fall of Rome. At the end of the war, Washington made this observation:
“A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.”