Perhaps it’s the holiday, perhaps it’s this particular holiday in an election year, perhaps it’s that our country faces so many challenges that I feel the need to remember how great a history we have. In light of all that, I’d like to talk a little about our Declaration of Independence, one of the greatest documents in history, not just in our country but in the world.
It might come as a surprise to remember that the Revolutionary War had actually been going on for a year by the time Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration. Remember the shot that was heard ’round the world, from Emerson’s “Concord Hymn”? That kick-off to the Revolution happened at Lexington and Concord in April, 1775, and was the beginning of armed conflict between our colonial militia and the British. The Declaration was written in June of 1776 and formally adopted by Congress on July 4, 1776—which is the date we celebrate today.
What’s the Declaration all about? First, members of Congress thought it would be a good idea to formally state our independence of English rule, even though we’d been fighting for that already. Jefferson was asked to communicate the reasons we wanted that independence, briefly enough so the document could be copied and distributed throughout the land. Basically the Declaration was meant to be a list of grievances against King George III, and there are many! It lists a number of “repeated injuries and usurpations” from things that threatened the public good to being ignored as well as overtaxed, to his interference in the judicial system, and generally behaving as a tyrant and in contrast to our best interests. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
But eventually portions of this document became a call to anyone who wanted to recognize the basic rights that should be accorded every human being. Remember the line that boils down those basic 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.”
If that famous line isn’t eloquent enough, it ends with the signers vowing their support of the 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.”
That’s quite a pledge that Mr. Jefferson wrote for all those men to sign—to rely on God and give their lives, their money, and something we don’t talk about much these days, even in the books we love. Sacred honor. Don’t you wish people today still spoke about such a thing?
To read the complete document, click here.
Let’s thank God today for the freedom we enjoy in this wonderful country of ours!