On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced into Congress a resolution, which would be adopted on July, that asserted the United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States. While this resolution was being discussed, on June 11, 1776 a committee, consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston , and Roger Sherman was appointed to draft what would go onto become America’s foundational document. A document declaring the United Colonies’ independence from the chains of the British Empire.
Through the authority granted from the consent of the governed, those men would adopt the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and fired a gunshot heard around the world in pursuit of mankind’s desire for self-rule.
No longer would the restrictive chains of their colonial masters remain shackled without resistance. While the adoption of the beautifully articulated declaration of war would explode like a powder keg on the minds of all in search of self-governance, the reception of said declaration would knowingly fall upon the formerly deaf, now rabidly hostile ears of their former masters.
The signatories of the Declaration surely knew that while the self-evidence of their creator’s divinely granted right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, would appear far less self-evident to King George and his empire’s military.
Especially when one considers that King George’s authority hailed from the same “God” he pointed to in ruling by the divine right of kings. From such a vantage, it is rather easy to see why what began as a simple disagreement over the correct assessment on one’s proclaimed divine right, lead to a fully fledged war, is it not?
While many a philosopher and priest have debated the theoretical origin of rights, be they natural or divinely granted, the freedoms they allow are felt in the physical world.
So while those Congressmen in Philadelphia, tasked with drafting our nation’s Declaration of Independence, put pen to paper and announced the existence of rights to which they and those they represented felt entitled, they must have known that any benefit offered by the written word, would only be felt once the United States demonstrated their ability to defend them against intrusion.
As with all conflicts resulting from adversaries in opposition to mankind’s quest for freedom, and regardless of the philosophical justification or ethical superiority of the principle said quest is premised upon, the inescapable truth remains: might determines the existence of right. Divinely endowed or not.
As today marks our nation’s two hundred and forty-first anniversary of independence, it is gravely important to remember the historical significance of our anniversary. Appreciating the significance of today is lost on most, as the majority will likely only recall the facts, such as the date and actors involved, rather than the lessons.
Such is the inevitable byproduct of America’s education system in its current state. One which prefers the recitation of facts to the application of reason. Alas, let us ignore that preference and spend the day contemplating the lessons and lasting societal impact the Declaration had upon the psyche of the revolutionary generation.
It is oft-forgotten the United States of America, in its current form, was not born until the ratification of the Constitution on June 21, 1788. Nearly a full twelve years after its announcement of independence. In considering that, one cannot help but wonder about the lasting psychological effect created by declaring independence had upon the psyche of the revolutionary generation. Their concept of self was defined first as a united collection of independent free men and women no longer subject to the crown, and second as citizens to a unified nation.
Traditionally, the most oft-cited original American beliefs are those of equality and justice. Undoubtedly resulting from being taught the adoption of the rule of law, via the ratification of a list of constitutional protections, is our original premise. One founded upon the application of justice derived by equality under the law. Yet, that would be incorrect.
While equality and justice played a vital role in the psychological composition of how first “Americans” defined themselves, those ideals were layered atop a different foundational principle or belief. The one which bonds us all uniquely together:
Independence, or in another word: rebellion.
America was conceived in rebellion. Birthed by men and women who defined their sense of self through a lens of rebellious independent free thinking individuals.
The type of individuals who, when presented with the choice of a blanket of security provided by constrained freedoms or the promise of unencumbered, yet wildly uncertain and potentially fatal freedom gained by treasonous independence, leapt head first into the abyss of uncertainty. Despite the known risk of death by hanging for treasonous acts, they chose the dangerous adventure in their quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That choice, rebellious independence, would go on to become the cornerstone of the American identity and all the additional ideas it is built upon.
Rebellious independence is the bond which ties us all. One universally shared by those whose forefathers successfully beat back an oppressive intrusion upon their battle earned right to determine destiny. The very moment King George finished reading the finalized and adopted draft of Mr. Jefferson’s eloquent letter from Philadelphia, an independent spirit of rebellion would become forever imprinted upon each American soul thereafter.
It is our common bond. Our shared thread tying together our distinctively patched American quilt. It is the tie which unites us all. As you celebrate our Independence Day, remember that bond. Despite our toxic political environment, one in which the patches of our distinct quilt seems held together with the most frayed of thread, remember our shared history. A history defined by the freedoms gained through the courage and blood of our rebellious forefathers. Men who closed their declaration to King George with a pledge:
“We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Happy Fourth of July.
Below is a transcript of the Declaration of Independence:
In Congress, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, 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.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
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 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.