Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day, Not Just the 4th of July...

I like the 4th of July. I like the flags waving, breakfast in the park, parades, barbecues with the family, and fireworks. Most of all, I like to think about the Independence in Independence Day.

It could just as well been known as Treason Day depending on your perspective and loyalties. Think about it... for the days following Jefferson's delivery of the Declaration of Independence, members of the Continental Congress were in fact meeting to determine if they were to deliver notice to the British Government that they no longer required, needed, or wanted their "services". To do so would require quite simply a rebellion to throw off the British Monarchy and Parliamentary rule that did not recognize the colonists’ rights for self determination. It wasn't that the members of the Continental Congress wanted mob rule, they in fact believed in the rule of law and wanted it equally and fairly applied.

They wanted the independence that was the genesis of the American experiment that began when British and other western European citizens came to America for religious freedom.

Yes, freedom. The ability to choose. The God given spark that gives man the desire to be free; to pursue the principles of life, liberty, and happiness. These were not "rights" given by King George, in fact they are not "given" by any government to the people, they are inherent in each person. God given.

It is instructive to read the entire text of the Declaration of Independence*. First, Jefferson lays out the philosophy underlying the action of rebellion. These opening sentences are among the most important non-scriptural (some may even regard them as scriptural canon) text ever written. It tells the world why man is entitled to freedom.

Only after establishing the premise of man's inherent rights does Jefferson enumerate the many transgressions against the rights of the men and women living in America.

These 56 men risked all they had, including their lives, to sign this document we hold dear; which today we should refer to when we believe government has infringed the sovereignty of the people; a document we should read often and read to our children. (the full text is reprinted below)

I can't help but think about George Washington and the battles that ensued against all odds. His dignity and leadership were profound. McCullough's "1776" is a treatise that inspires the reader in understanding the hardships and impossible situations that the colonists overcame. It is indeed a miracle that the Revolutionary War was successful and opened the way for the world to see how a democratic Republic could and would be successful. It set the stage for dozens of nations to try the "experiment" themselves.

But even so, most of humanity has never lived in a free society, and most do not now. Rebellion and revolution to throw off the shackles of despotism do not usually result in what we have in America.

Though we still live in the freest land on earth we do have elements in our country and government who believe they know better than Jefferson and the other 55 men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Some believe those notions are antiquated and idealistic in the "real world". Some believe that government should "take care of its citizens" and that government extends certain rights and can therefore restrict them as well... Some believe the constitution is not relevant in this age of electronic communication, high technology, and a global society.

I am not one of those. I believe the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are more relevant today than ever before. I believe that when we abandon principles to expediency and security that we lose our soul as a country, leading to a loss of our God given rights. When the people (and the states and local governments) abdicate to the federal government their rights, we are giving away that which we have no right to give away.

I feel blessed during this time of year and am reminded of the sacrifice our forefathers (and mothers, and sisters, and brothers...) have freely given. Our armed forces are unique in the world as a freer of people. We have provided more opportunity for freedom around the world than any military and any people in history. I am proud of them and all they do and I thank them for their service.

There is a song I used to sing as part of musical group I belonged to as a youth (I'm not saying I was good, but I was enthusiastic). I remember the lyric something like this..."Freedom is a word often heard today, but if you want to keep there's a price to pay, for each generation has to win it anew, 'cause it's not something handed down to you. Freedom isn't free. You've got to pay a price; you've got to sacrifice, for your liberty."

I think we are pretty lucky that most of us don't have to make the sacrifice of our armed forces and those who have died to protect us and our freedoms (our lives). But we can sacrifice our time and treasure(our fortunes) to support worthy causes (our sacred honor) that will help us guard against intrusive government and to support those who will represent us to protect the rights with which we are endowed.

Independence Day is more than the 4th of July... for us it is the acknowledgement that we are a free people and individuals endowed with unalienable rights by our creator... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

(* Yes, I know that a resolution by Richard Henry Lee from Virginia was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2nd, 1776 stating that, “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states....and that all political connection between them and The State of Great Britain is, and of right ought to be, totally dissolved.” However, it was the Declaration by Jefferson that eloquently established the legal and philosophical reasoning behind the July 2nd Resolution.)

Text of The Declaration of Independence

Adopted in Congress 4 July 1776

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
W hen, 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.

W e 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 to 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 shown 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. — 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.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

W e, 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 the 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 levey 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.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Wonderful Article! Thank you for posting it!