July 4 is one of my favorite holidays. It’s been 241 years since our forefathers declared our independence from Great Britain. It was seen by King George III as “an act of treason” by the upstart and ungrateful American colonies.
The radical and risky Declaration of Independence was penned mostly by Thomas Jefferson. He called it “an expression of the American mind,” meant to “place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”
Jefferson’s words ring out across the centuries to inspire us still today: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by theirCreator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
President Abraham Lincoln said later when future generations of Americans read the Declaration of Independence they would realize their “right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are.”
The premise of the Declaration is pointed and profound: Since individuals equally possess “certain unalienable rights by nature, government derives its just power from the consent of the governed.” Abuse of power by the government can become just and sufficient cause for the governed to alter or abolish that government.
The Declaration of Independence was a scathing indictment of the British king and his repeated abuses perpetrated against the American colonies. It concluded with “We, 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 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 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 levy 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.” With these bold words, the signers knew they were signing their lives away if the American Revolution failed.
That said, it would take much more than bold words to wrest our independence from the British Crown. It would take daring deeds by American patriots in a long and bloody Revolutionary War. More on that historic American victory next week. Meanwhile, have a happy and safe July 4, 2017!
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at email@example.com.