239 years ago today, a group of men in a room in Philadelphia took a risk. The risk they were willing to take would be one that no one had ever taken before.

It was a risk that could very well cost them their freedom, not to mention their lives. It was a risk that had never been taken before. A piece of paper written by an agnostic who would later become Secretary of State and then president would write the document that allowed these men to take that risk.

The Declaration of Independence, written by a young Virginia named Thomas Jefferson and signed by those in attendance in that room in Philadelphia, was a gamble and a huge one at best. It was a message directed not just at the British people but at King George III. A message that was as subtle as a punch in the nose was needed to be spoken. It was not a perfect message but it was a message that needed to be delivered.

It starts out with “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Jefferson sets the table with this introduction that tells the world of the intent to break free from a king that had a chance to listen to his servants but chose not to. A large section of the Declaration is devoted to King George III, although he is not mentioned by name specifically, as Jefferson instead chose to speak of the monarch in second person. “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” Jefferson pulls no punches. Thomas Jefferson tells it like it is. The truth was exposed at that moment in time for all to see. Laid bare and exposed like Mary Magdaline in front of Jesus, it tells the reader that George III was a despot. a ruler unfit to be called a leader.

Like a defense attorney in their opening arguments, Jefferson presents his case to not just the colonists but to future readers and the case he presents is a very strong case. This is his “smoking gun,” so to speak. These men were about to take a risk. They were about to put their necks on the line in the literal and figurative sense of the word. They all had to be in agreement. This was the line in the sand that they had drawn with the British, who they would call “enemies in war, friends in peace.”

239 years ago today, a group of men went “all in.” They were going up against Britain, which at that time had the largest army and navy in the world (think of your town’s Little League team going up against the New York Yankees WITH Derek Jeter).

They took a chance on a dream to be free men. At that time, free men meant only those that were white and owned property, which left out slaves (either free or with their masters), native Americans, indentured servants and women.

It took Jefferson 1,337 words without the signatures (the largest being John Hancock’s) to tell the world that they wanted and deserved to govern themselves. “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

They knew the risks and the heat in Philadelphia that day would be the least of their worries. They knew if they lost, they would be branded as traitors and be tried in a British court and hung on British soil.

239 years ago, a group of men took a risk. They went “all in” to make a dream of being free come to the light of day. Today, those women, native Americans, indentured servants and slaves have the right to vote and choose their own destiny. It’s not perfect but in the grand scheme of things, Jefferson spoke for all of us. They went “all in.” They pushed their chips to the center of the table, taking a risk. They took a gamble not only with their sacred fortunes and honors, they gambled with their lives with the British crown playing the role of “the house.”

And this time, the house did not win.

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