Granted, the fact that they had no say in their government but were expected to pay like every other subject of the crown made things frustrating, but the east coast of North America was a fairly serene area. The Native Americans did cause the occasional tiff and the French in Canada continued the institutional hatred on this continent, but all in all it was a pretty decent life for the time. Freedom, however was a word that held little meaning for most.
Looking at it from over 200 years in the future, it's hard to envision that era...not knowing what it was like with the restrictions they lived under. I can only imagine what it was like to not be able to say what I want (within reason) when I want. Yes, I know there are places on the planet now where the freedoms I enjoy are not available to the public, but not having lived or even visited them, I still don't truly know the feeling. What must it be like not being able to share your thoughts for fear that the government might not agree and, at best, toss you in jail?
To make things worse, many of these guys were pretty young by today's standards. Jefferson was 33, James Madison was 25, Robert Livingston was 30, John Jay was 31. I'm 33 now...I can't imagine putting my life on the line for any ideal, much less one that was far from certain when they put pen to paper and, essentially, signed their own death warrants. Thank God for the French. No empire in that era wanted the Colonies to succeed lest it inspire revolutions in their own realms, but the hatred that the French had towards the English was stronger than the fear of revolution in their own borders.
As with many of our holidays, the real meaning of it has been lost over the years. It's too bad that when most people hoist their favorite beverage tomorrow, they don't truly understand what a group of fairly young men put on the line so that we can sit around with our friends and family and speak freely about the state of the government. I admit that I haven't given the holidays the respect they deserve lately. I tend to treat holidays as just another day. That makes their devotion to their cause that much greater. They risked all so I have the freedom to mark the day in any way I feel, even if it's no special way. Thank you Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and all the rest who made all of this possible.