A reading of the Declaration of Independence for the 4th

Happy July 4th, everybody!

Today everybody should take out their laminated copies of the Declaration of Independence — which we’re celebrating today — and reacquaint ourselves with the philosophical premises on which this country was formed the ideals that lead it.

The Declaration of Independence is a brilliant document, known for its forcefulness, its clarity, and above all, for the empowering words found in it.

The organization of the DoI makes this former composition instructor’s heart beat wildly. It states plainly its premise in the opening paragraph — that the colonies consider themselves independent of England.

Next, the DoI explains the natural rights of humans, and how government is formed to serve those rights:

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…

Then defines when the bonds of government may be severed:

— 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.

The DoI then claims such was the case for the American colonies, then backs up that claim with a long string of evidence. After the evidence is presented, the colonies “solemnly” declared their independence from England.

I view the document as the philosophical basis for the existence of our country. Note that its precepts are broader than the original Constitution, extending inalienable rights to all, not just a handful of moneyed white men, and that some have seen the Declaration as the basis of emancipation, civil rights, and women’s suffrage. And to all who feel that the Constitution is no “living document,” it’s best to pay heed to the foundation for why the nation became a nation, that all have the right to participate, and that government is a servant of the people.

  1. Wise men, our founding fathers…

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