Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume II by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt


Declaration of Independence

At the beginning of the war the colonists had not expected to be free from British rule: indeed they did not wish to be. All they did ask was that they might be treated fairly. But since they had begun to fight, they grew more and more convinced that now nothing less than perfect independence of the mother-country ought to satisfy them.

Then the leading men of the colonies met together at Philadelphia to draw up a writing, in which they declared themselves no longer subject to English rule. Five men, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingstone, were appointed to write it out; and when this was done every man in the Congress signed it.

It had been agreed that as soon as the Declaration was adopted the old bell-man should ring the big "Liberty-bell" that hung in the tower of the old State House, in order that the great throng of people outside might know it. This, as I suppose you all know, happened July 4, 1776.


Signing the Declaration of Independence


Names of Persons who Signed the Declaration of Independence. Copy of their Signatures—Can you read them?

The old bell-man had taken his place up in the tower, and had told his little grandson to tell him when the time came to ring the bell.

Messengers were sent in every direction to tell the news in every village and town; the boys lit fires, the cannons blazed, and everywhere the people—men, women, and children, tried in every way to show their joy that they were now all to stand shoulder to shoulder, a free nation.

Ask your teacher to let you learn this poem about the bell ringing of that day, to read in concert; and if you are one-half as patriotic as the boys and girls then were, I'm sure you'll read it in such a way that the teacher will think "Independence day has come again."

There was tumult in the city,

In the quaint old Quaker town,

And the streets were rife with people,

Pacing restless up and down;—

People gathering at corners,

Where they whispered each to each,

And the sweat stood on their temples,

With the earnestness of speech.

"Will they do it?" "Dare they do it?"

"Who is speaking?" "What's the news?"

"What of Adams?" "What of Sherman?"

"Oh, God grant they won't refuse!"

"Make some way there!" "Let me nearer!"

"I am stifling!" "Stifle then!

When a nation's life's at hazard,

We've no time to think of men!"

So they beat against the portal,

Man and woman, maid and child;

And the July sun in heaven

On the scene looked down and smiled,

The same sun that saw the Spartan

Shed his patriot blood in vain,

Now beheld the soul of freedom

All unconquer'd rise again.

See! See! The dense crowd quivers

Through all its lengthy line,

As the boy beside the portal

Looks forth to give the sign!

With his small hands upward lifted,

Breezes dallying with his hair,

Hark! With deep, clear intonation,

Breaks his young voice on the air.

Hushed the people's swelling murmur,

List, the boy's exultant cry!

"Ring!" he shouts, "Ring, Grandpa,

Ring, O, ring for Liberty!"

And straightway at the signal,

The old bellman lifts his hand,

And sends the good news, making

Iron music through the land.

How they shouted! What rejoicing!

How the old bell shook the air,

Till the clang of freedom ruffled

The calm, gliding Delaware!

How the bonfires and the torches

Illumed the night's repose,

And from the flames like fabled Phoenix,

Our glorious Liberty arose!

That old bell now is silent,

And hushed its iron tongue,

But the spirit it awakened,

Still lives—forever young.

And when we greet the smiling sunlight,

On the fourth of each July,

We'll ne'er forget the bellman,

Who, betwixt the earth and sky,

Rang out Our Independence,

Which, please God, shall never die!

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Red-coats Leave Boston  |  Next: The History of Our Flag
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.