The (Organizational) Audacity of Independence

Steve Gifford Change, Current Affairs, HR (& Life!) Advice, Leadership, Steve Gifford, This Week in HR

Today marks 237 years since representatives from each of the thirteen colonies met in Philadelphia to declare independence from the British Empire. A 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson wrote a message to formalize the war that had started a year before at Lexington and Concord. It included the words,

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Those aren’t fighting words; they’re treasonous words.  That kind of language gets you executed if you lose.  More than one hundred years before the Revolution, the British people overthrew the King Charles I, and 59 people signed his death warrant.  When the King was placed back on the throne, they dug up the bodies of those 59 who had died, and executed them again.  The living ones were hunted down around the globe; three of them fled across the ocean to New Haven, Connecticut, and they still couldn’t get away.  This was the power of the British Empire in 1660.  By 1776, it was even more powerful.

That’s if you lose the Revolution.  If you win, it gets you a country with a philosophy that looks different than any other nation out there.

This is a talent blog, and there are some organizational implications for these facts — but also, they’re just interesting to think about

  • The Second Continental Congress produced the Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 delegates.  
  • The Continental Army had some 250,000 soldiers overall, 90,000 at any one time.  
  • The US population at the time was around 2.5 million.  This dramatic change was executed by a relatively few people.
  • Britain alone had a population of upwards of 10 million.
  • Some 60,000 loyalists left for Canada after the Revolution
  • These things take time; the Declaration was in 1776, but the Constitution and the modern form of federal government was drafted in 1787, and finally ratified in 1791.

Those who signed their names to the Declaration, closed by saying

For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are change agents.  Happy Fourth of July!