Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July

I would be remiss if I did not comment on July 4th. Officially it marks the birthday of the United States which is recognized as July 4th, 1776 when the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. When I look at this document and the Constitution, I am continual amazed at the thought that went into this documents, and I firmly believe that these are two of the most significant documents created by man, particularly with regards to self governing. They were cutting edge for their time, and are still highly respected to this day.

Consider the first couple of lines from the Declaration of Independence:

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.

Wikipedia has this to say about the second sentence, which I have highlighted above:

This sentence has been called "one of the best-known sentences in the English language" and "the most potent and consequential words in American history". The passage has often been used to promote the rights of marginalized groups, and came to represent for many people a moral standard for which the United States should strive. This view was greatly influenced by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and promoted the idea that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.
That is high praise indeed.
It is no secret that I am a big fan of heroic fantasy. It’s in the struggle between good and evil that everyday people step up to answer a bolder challenge than what they have previously expected. Heroic fantasy is centered on the hero answering the call and getting involved with something larger that self, and with it comes the recognition that this is worth fighting for, and if needed, to die for. It makes for exciting reading, and I never grow tired of this theme. This is exactly what happened in 1776.

When I read the above quotes from the Declaration of Independence, I know why ordinary men and women gave their lives so that we could have freedom today. Back in 1776, it was not a given that the colonies were going to win. It was a bit of a gamble, but the ideal of freedom was strong in the hearts of the leaders at that time. The founding fathers needed ordindary people to take up arms against their mother country. Not an easy thing to ask of, but the principles of the argument carried the day, and ordinary folks stepped up to the call. Of the 56 men that signed this great document, John Hancock deserves a special note as his signature is nearly 5 inches long, and I am sure that the King of England did not need his glasses to read it. He was not afraid to make a statement on what he believed, and it was quite a statement. In many ways, the American Revolution was a victory for the principles that the Declaration of Independence stood for, and I think this is what makes the United States a special place to live.

1 comment:

STAG said...

This is a complete record of the price paid by the signatories to the Declaration of Indepenance.