Friday, July 3, 2009

The Spirit of '76!

Few other writings in the history of man have been as beautifully constructed and have had as great an impact on mankind as the Declaration of Independence. As powerful and as inspired as Moses’ “Let my people go”, the Declaration of Independence stands as the definitive statement of man’s right to be free. More than a mere set of political demands, the Declaration sets forth the rights that are inherent to all mankind, which are given them by their Creator, which only man in his scheming can take from them. In addition, the Declaration establishes the circumstances under which a revolution is morally justified. Here is the first part of the Declaration—read for yourself the beauty of the language and principles it contains:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

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.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; 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. 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…”

It is easy for us to look at this document now and fail to appreciate the freedoms that have sprung from its text--which are quite literally responsible for our day-to-day happiness. Indeed, the Fourth of July is a day that deserves celebration.
In a letter to his Wife Abigail Adams, John Adams prophesied of this day that it would be “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”

He continued, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.” -John Adams- Philadelphia July 3rd, 1776

While the rights declared in the Declaration are indeed rights inherent in all mankind, and while these rights are protected by the Constitution, these rights are nonetheless not guaranteed. I don’t think any of us realize how fragile our freedoms truly are. I believe we are at all times one generation away from loosing them. If we cease to guard them jealously and to do our civic duty to protect them, we will loose them. In short, we must do much more than just celebrate them.

Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were named to a committee of five to prepare a Declaration of Independence. Jefferson (standing) did the actual writing, convinced by Adams that he was the best man for the job.