Before the American Declaration of Independence, the moral legitimacy of governments were based on a concept called the Divine right of Kings. God granted the power to Kings and government, and the government was free to use people as it wanted.
The American Revolution was based on the radical and revolutionary idea that government’s legitimacy was derived not from a king but the people. The American founders boldly proclaimed that the people had rights, and it was the government’s power that should be limited. As Jefferson said, “where the people fear the government there is tyranny—where the government fears the people there is liberty.”
The 56 signers of the Declaration had committed treason and would be hunted down, drawn, and quartered. This is why John Hancock’s signature is so big, he wanted the British to not doubt his commitment. They were among the richest and most privileged men in the colonies. Yet they risked ALL their material wealth for the cause of freedom. Five of them were captured and tortured by the British. Nine were killed in the war. Twelve had their homes destroyed. The majority died broke because they had pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for the cause of freedom.
The victory of Washington’s army over the British was nothing short of miraculous. It would be like the St. Olaf baseball team beating the Minnesota Twins. An act of divine providence.