The signing of the Declaration of Independence was the ultimate act of courage. It set in motion an ideal that many have died to protect throughout time.
“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…”
These words are so eloquent and describe a sentiment that the people had had enough of the imposition of government rules and regulations on their lives. Before this declaration it was common to believe in class systems where a person’s birth right was more important than their accomplishments, Kings were bowed to, and the people accepted their lot in life as set out by a ruling class. Moving up in society was almost impossible and individual rights were window dressing rather than the law of the land. The Declaration of Independence and the willingness to sacrifice everything for freedom changed the world. It is why we celebrate July 4th with celebrations across the country.
The final sentence of the document shows the willingness to stand by their words:
“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.”
Today we often take our freedoms for granted. There were 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence. A few of the names you would recognize like Jefferson, Samuel and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Hancock, but most you would not. It is a shame we don’t spend more time in school getting to know every one of these brave men in more detail. The world should be thankful these men had the courage they did to stand up against tyranny.
None of these men were perfect. But they understood that the individual not a collective body is the greatest prospect for success. We talk a lot these days about “community” but in the context of government community is different and often stifles individual freedom. We also talk a lot about “fairness” but fairness is about opportunity not outcome. Individuals are given a fair opportunity because of our God given rights, but outcomes can never be made to be “fair.”
These men knew that and simply declared we would be the arbiters of our own destiny. No government was capable or endowed with the power to define our life. Today we celebrate being given the opportunity to be free from government rule. Government is formed with the consent of the governed and we have the power to change what we don’t like if we have the will. Happy Birthday America!