One of the most inspirational and significant documents in the history of the world has got to be our own Declaration of Independence. If you think it starts out with “We the People,” you probably need to read it and see just what it says about the people who founded our country, how it applies to us their descendants, and what we really celebrate every July 4th.
No, it doesn’t start out with “We the People.” The Preamble to our Constitution starts with those three words. The first words of our Declaration of Independence go like this:
“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another … a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.”
So, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote most of the document, used his decorative writing skills to say, “We want out, King George, and here’s why…”
But before the Declaration states the “here’s why,” the second paragraph is what makes our founding document the most important piece of writing for all Americans. It says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” Those truths were that all are created equal and that our Creator endows us with rights that no one can take away — “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Then this astonishing document, in breathtakingly simple logic, says that governments are set up by people to guard the natural rights of the people and they get their powers “from the consent of the governed.” It follows, the document continues, that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government …”
The Declaration of Independence continues with a list of complaints against “the present King of Great Britain,” over his repeated violations of the colonies’ political rights and lists them in some detail. That list is worth reading, because everything on it inspired our Constitution 12 years later. The Constitution was both a remedy to and safeguard against capricious and tyrannical government described in the Declaration of Independence.
But our Declaration of Independence would not have been worth the parchment it was written on had it not been for the military support of our citizen soldiers. Picture them standing in ranks in the summer of 1776 while their officers read the Declaration of Independence aloud. At that moment they were no longer colonial militia; they were soldiers of the United States of America.
The struggle for our independence was won after six long years. When the British surrendered at Yorktown, the victory brought meaning to the idea of the Declaration of Independence: when a government no longer operates with the consent of the governed, the latter can sweep away the former and install a new one.
If you want to know the most important thing about the history of our country during its 240 years of independence it is this: every American who has ever lived only wanted what the Declaration of Independence said was their right as children of the Creator…
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The best part of the American story has been and continues to be the ongoing struggle to live up to our own ideals and secure the blessings of freedom to our children and to anyone else anywhere who is interested.
Our Declaration of Independence is something to be proud of; cherish it.
We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty for their souls.
~Robert J. McCracken
At *your* service,