Image via Wikipedia
I ran across this story by accident while I was looking for something else. Ronald Reagan told it in one of his most famous speeches. I’ve never heard it before, and you probably haven’t either. It’s a fascinating story and I have to share it with you.
A stranger showed up at Independence Hall and persuaded the Founding Fathers to sign the Declaration of Independence. And, well, I’ll let you read the rest of the story for yourself in the words of President Reagan:
“Some years ago a writer, who happened to be an avid student of history, told me a story about that day in the little hall in Philadelphia where honorable men, hard-pressed by a King who was flouting the very law they were willing to obey, debated whether they should take the fateful step of declaring their independence from that king. I was told by this man that the story could be found in the writings of Jefferson. I confess, I never researched or made an effort to verify it. Perhaps it is only legend.
But story, or legend, he described the atmosphere, the strain, the debate, and that as men for the first time faced the consequences of such an irretrievable act, the walls resounded with the dread word of treason and its price — the gallows and the headman’s axe. As the day wore on the issue hung in the balance, and then, according to the story, a man rose in the small gallery.
He was not a young man and was obviously calling on all the energy he could muster. Citing the grievances that had brought them to this moment he said, “Sign that parchment. They may turn every tree into a gallows, every home into a grave and yet the words of that parchment can never die. For the mechanic in his workshop, they will be words of hope, to the slave in the mines — freedom.”
And he added, “If my hands were freezing in death, I would sign that parchment with my last ounce of strength. Sign, sign if the next moment the noose is around your neck, sign even if the hall is ringing with the sound of headman’s axe, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever. And then it is said he fell back exhausted.
But 56 delegates, swept by his eloquence, signed the Declaration of Independence, a document destined to be as immortal as any work of man can be. And according to the story, when they turned to thank him for his timely oratory, he could not be found nor were there any who knew who he was or how he had come in or gone out through the locked and guarded doors.”
The most amazing thing about this that the man appeared and disappeared inside a locked room. What is equally amazing is that nobody knew who he was. Who was this mysterious visitor? And, did this really happen?
I think that it did. This was one of the most important meetings in the history of the world; and God had a stake in the outcome. I think that he sent a angel from heaven to strengthen and encourage those men. The word “angel” literally means messenger. They received a message from God and they acted on it.
The Bible tells us, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)
This is an excerpt from Ronald Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill speech,” given on January 25,1974.