“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.”
Penned by Thomas Jefferson, these would became the greatest words he ever wrote. These words would inspire men and women alike to honor the call, to make the sacrifice, and to begin a movement that would inspire nations to embark on the objective of freedom.
Dated 4 July 1776, it has been 240 years since The Continental Congress released the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,” and still these words continue to ring true today.
The patriots of the Revolution understood the price of what would become the Revolution.
Vexed by the oppression of the British monarch and finding inspiration from Enlightenment idealists, words began to circulate calling for a separated of the colonies from the British Crown.
In his famous “Liberty or Death” speech from 1775, Patrick Henry would say he sees the past of the British monarch and the storm could no longer be adverted. He recognized the colonies were weak in comparison to the strength of the British military, but the time was to act now. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?” Henry called his fellow countrymen to fight because retreat was no longer an option.
Likewise, about six months after the speech by Henry, Jefferson would go on to say “Believe me, dear Sir: there is not in the British empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do. But, by the God that made me, I will cease to exist before I yield to a connection on such terms as the British Parliament propose; and in this, I think I speak the sentiments of America.”
The colonies bid to stand and fight for all they believed in. The Declaration became the founding document for American political tradition. It articulates a legitimate government is based on the consent of the government. Therefore, the government must secure the rights of their people.
Beyond declaring separation from the Crown, the Declaration became a truly revolutionary document. The Declaration of Independence based political legitimacy in the sovereignty of the people. Intrinsically, the meaning of the Declaration would become one to transcend both time and circumstance.
Although the war had begun more than a year before the document was penned, the resolution of Richard Henry Lee began the process of appointing a committee survey the ideas, possibilities, and value of independence from the Crown. Congress would then vote for independence on 2 July, and two days later unanimously approve of Jefferson’s document.
Independence Day does not only symbolize and celebrate the American pursuit and act of independence, but also the public principle behind the fact.
As John Adams would state:
I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure it will cost us to maintain this declaration and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is worth all the means. This is our day of deliverance.
Because of these men, America could truly become the land of the free because of the brave for when tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty.
For God & Country.