It’s that time of year when we celebrate our nation’s independence from Great Britain, 236 years ago. Our nation has faced triumph and tragedy, civil and foreign war, abundance and depression, unity and fracture.
And it all started with a 1300 word document that was signed by 56 men.
Independence and freedom strike at the hearts of Americans. Independence isn’t an abstract concept, it’s what we are. Freedom isn’t just a privilege, we demand it.
The Declaration of Independence is important, than, not for just declaring independence, but for establishing the very foundation of it.
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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.
The Founders determined it was necessary to break bonds with their sovereign nation, England, to become a nation on equal footing. Their rationale wasn’t just based on whim; it was because God and the Laws of Nature entitled them to it. However, rather than just starting a fight, they felt that the right thing to do was to respect those they were declaring independence from by giving them a list of reasons for the declaration.
But before they get into the list of abuses they wanted to establish the rules for debate.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
I would not begin to suppose what they were thinking when they wrote this, but I think it’s safe to say that this was an ideal, a dream yet to be realized, that would continue to work toward. It was self-evident, they needed no proof to say that all men were created equal, but considering how many men, women and children were in immoral bondage in the U.S., it's fair to say the dream of equality was yet to be realized.
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —
Inalienable rights are rights that cannot be taken from you because they were given to you by God. God has designed humanity so that when these rights are infringed, the human spirit naturally fights back.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
In Federalist Paper #51, James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Governments exist by the will of the people to protect us from each other.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
We’re getting to the heart of the matter at hand. When a government fails to protect the rights of the people it should be abolished and replaced with a government that will.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;
No government should be abolished lightly, especially those that have stood the test of time. Britain had ruled for more than 800 years and was the most powerful empire on the planet. In 1776, Britain was roughly 600 years older than the United States is even today. You don’t just break that bond without good reason.
and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
We know that mankind is more likely to put up with abuse than to fight it.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —
But there comes a time when we can stand it no longer and action can…no, action must be taken.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. 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.
Britain had inflicted a long list of abuses on the American people, over many years, and it was finally time to put an end to that subjugation.
What followed were a list of abuses that included tyrannical impositions on the people, laws that affected Americans, but not the British, establishment of bureaucracies that plagued the people, cutting off trade, imposing taxes, and the list goes on.
The colonists petitioned the King many times and in many ways to address these problems, but the King responded by imposing more burdens.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
And so it was done. The document was signed and sent and there was no turning back.
We are Americans and by God, we will be free.
Cliff Richardson is the author of Cliffymania.com; prepared to give an answer. Follow me on twitter @cliffymania. Find me on facebook at facebook.com/CliffymaniaPublic