Happy Independence Day!
Take notice that I said Independence Day and NOT 4th of July. I make this distinction because we are losing the meaning of the holiday we celebrate on the 4th of July. After all everyone has a 4th of July. It is nothing more then a date on a calendar.
Independence Day however carries a distinction. It is the day we declared our independence from England. That's all great but how many people really know what that means? What did independence for America really mean?
My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy! - Thomas Jefferson
If you read the words of our founding fathers you'll see our independence and formation of our own free country was something they were passionate about. Who can forget Patrick Henry's statement "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Independence, freedom, liberty... They all sound nice as we sit back cooking hotdogs and watching fireworks but what is it all for? What was so bad about England that we felt the need to declare our independence? For answers look no further then the very document we celebrate the signing of. A document which sadly far too many US citizens have actually read, and one I fear even fewer politicians have read.
For starters allow us to examine the following lines:
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 is perhaps the most well known line of the document but without the line after it much of it's meaning is lost.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
Read that line over again slowly. There are four VERY important words there, "consent of the governed". Laws that protect us from ourselves and our own actions are ignoring the very spirit of that statement. Government isn't meant to protect us from ourselves or protect us from things we wish not to be protected from, government is meant to simply protect our rights from being infringed.
When our founders declared their independence they did so because the felt the government not only did not protect their rights and liberties but they infringed upon them. Reading further into the Declaration you will find they listed out specific charges against the British monarchy. Let's examine:
The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] 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 harass 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 and 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.
By my count that is 27 charges against the government of England. Those 27 charges are what lead to many men fighting to the death in the war of Independence which lead to our freedom. Read them and remember what it was that lead good men to take up arms against the government of England and resulted in the holiday you and your family enjoy this week.
And remember the three patriots from New Hampshire who signed that document at risk to their own lives and safety... Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple and Matthew Thornton. It is after all their deed that we celebrate and not just a date on a calendar.