“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,” — so ends the Declaration of Independence we celebrate this week.
Yes, once again we celebrate the birth of the United States of America with a national holiday, family outings, barbecues and, of course, fireworks. All that’s grand, but despite our merriment, we also should pause to remember the real reason for the holiday.
Did you ever consider the 56 brave Americans who debated, drafted and signed the declaration were traitorous criminals simply for serving as delegates at the Second Continental Congress thanks to a proclamation issued by King George II seeking to suppress the rebellion more than a year earlier? Despite the risks, these brave and bold patriots pledged themselves to the creation of a new nation.
The declaration actually documents a litany of complaints against the English government and its dread sovereign, King George III, and representatives from the original 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 in order to justify to the world their decision to separate from England and create a new nation. Did you know the founders didn’t actually sign the document until August 2, 1776?
And the declaration did not start the Revolutionary War either — armed conflict had already broken out between the rebels in the colonies and the English Redcoats more than a year before with the battles at Lexington (the famous shot heard ‘round the world) and Concord.
The colonists came from many lands, but the colonies remained decidedly English in tradition and culture, so the preamble to the declaration continues the quest for greater and greater freedom and the rule of law that began with the Charter of Liberties in 1100 and the Magna Carta in 1215.
But in addition to claiming for themselves “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle them,” the Founding Fathers boldly declared, “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 … ”
Mighty words, indeed.
We all should take the time this Fourth of July to pause for a moment and reflect upon the noble vision of these Founding Fathers and their unwavering dedication to equality and liberty.
Had they not risked absolutely everything to sever their ties with England and begin a brand new nation dedicated to these lofty principles, the world as we know it would be a much different place.
As we celebrate our freedom this week, these courageous men deserve our gratitude.