The Fourth of July: Our nation’s prime summertime holiday. We may choose to celebrate with a vibrant parade, picnic, or fireworks display, or we can observe while quietly sitting on the beach, hanging in the air conditioning, or reading under a tree, all because we are free. Still, every American should take at least a few moments to reflect upon the reason why we celebrate this national holiday.
On the surface, we commemorate a document, one carefully written more than a decade before the United States had its Constitution. Of course you know it’s not just any document, The Declaration of Independence inaugurated the first 13 states of America as a unified force for freedom, paving the way for the nation we know today. With acknowledgment of its continued relevance, I have summarized its contents below with quoted material indicated with capital letters.
A summary of the Declaration of Independence
Declared was the intention of America’s founders to DISSOLVE THE POLITICAL BANDS WHICH HAVE CONNECTED THEM WITH ANOTHER while putting in writing THE CAUSES WHICH IMPEL THEM TO THE SEPARATION.
The self-evident truth that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL and the rights to LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS are probably the most quoted of all the declaration’s 1300(+) words, for these summarized what Britain’s FORM OF GOVERNMENT had become DESTRUCTIVE OF. Thus, they declared, IT IS THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ALTER OR ABOLISH IT. Subsequently, A NEW GOVERNMENT would be instituted, LAYING ITS FOUNDATION ON SUCH PRINCIPLES, AND ORGANIZING ITS POWERS IN SUCH FORM as most likely to effect their SAFETY AND HAPPINESS.
They did not take this political separation lightly. PRUDENCE, INDEED, WILL DICTATE THAT GOVERNMENTS LONG ESTABLISHED SHOULD NOT BE CHANGED FOR LIGHT AND TRANSIENT CAUSES. But they also recognized that MANKIND ARE MORE DISPOSED TO SUFFER than to abolish THE FORMS TO WHICH THEY ARE ACCUSTOMED. And so they banded together against A LONG TRAIN OF ABUSES AND USURPATIONS (illegal encroachment, infringement, or seizure) that clearly illustrated ABSOLUTE DESPOTISM (absolute power or tyranny).
They acknowledged THE PATIENT SUFFERANCE OF THESE COLONIES and deemed it a NECESSITY to ALTER THEIR FORMER SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT. Then, they outlined the following abuses by THE PRESENT KING OF GREAT-BRITAIN:
- He refused to follow the laws.
- He refused to pass necessary new laws unless the people first gave up their right of representation.
- Legislative decisions were made at PLACES UNUSUAL, UNCOMFORTABLE, AND DISTANT … FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF FATIGUING the public INTO COMPLIANCE WITH HIS MEASURES.
- He impeded elections and DISSOLVED REPRESENTATIVE HOUSES REPEATEDLY, endangering the state and the peoples’ rights.
- He obstructed the LAWS FOR NATURALIZATION OF FOREIGNERS to prevent the population of these states.
- He blocked the establishment of courts and judges and paid off existing judges to follow his will.
- He created a MULTITUDE OF NEW OFFICES, AND SENT HITHER SWARMS OF OFFICERS TO HARRASS OUR PEOPLE.
- He maintained a military presence without their consent and RENDERed it INDEPENDENT OF AND SUPERIOR TO THE CIVIL POWER, pardoning murderers and QUARTERING LARGE BODIES OF ARMED TROOPS AMONG US.
- He feigned laws, cut off trade, and imposed taxes.
- He deprived them of a trial by jury or transported them to BEYOND SEAS TO BE TRIED FOR PRETENDED OFFENSES
- He abolished A FREE SYSTEM OF ENGLISH LAWS as well as their charters, and he crippled their legislature’s power.
- He quit governing them BY DECLARING US OUT 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.
- As the document was being considered, he was deploying LARGE ARMIES OF FOREIGN MERCENARIES TO COMPLETE THE WORKS OF DEATH, DESOLATION, AND TYRANNY ALREADY BEGUN WITH CIRCUMSTANCES OF CRUELTY AND PERFIDY (treachery), SCARCELY PARALLELED IN THE MOST BARBAROUS AGES, AND TOTALLY UNWORTHY OF THE HEAD OF A CIVILIZED NATION.
- He captured OUR FELLOW CITIZENS on the high seas and forced them BEAR ARMS AGAINST THEIR COUNTRY, TO BECOME THE EXECUTIONERS OF THEIR FRIENDS AND BRETHREN or else fall.
- He stirred up the MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES to act out against them.
IN EVERY STAGE, they claimed, WE HAVE PETITIONED FOR REDRESS IN THE MOST HUMBLE TERMS, only ANSWERED BY REPEATED INJURY.
They wrote, 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.
Of their family back home, 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 nobility as well as THE TIES OF OUR COMMON KINDRED. THEY TOO HAVE BEEN DEAF TO THE VOICE OF JUSTICE and kinship. Ultimately, the founders considered them as the rest of mankind: ENEMIES IN WAR, and IN PEACE, FRIENDS.
WE, THEREFORE, THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA … IN THE NAME, AND BY THE AUTHORITY OF THE GOOD PEOPLE OF THESE COLONIES, SOLEMNLY PUBLISH AND DECLARE, THAT THESE UNITED COLONIES ARE … TO BE FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, THAT THEY ARE TO BE ABSOLVED FROM ALL ALLEGIANCE TO THE BRITISH CROWN. By disconnecting political ties, the states could LEVY WAR, CONCLUDE PEACE, CONTRACT ALLIANCES, ESTABLISH COMMERCE AND … DO ALL OTHER ACTS AND THINGS WHICH INDEPENDENT STATES MAY OF RIGHT DO.
The Declaration ends with a sentence that summarizes the commitment required for a country like ours to succeed. It is this line that I think, above all others, we would do well to read aloud on this holiday, regardless of our individual beliefs about God. 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.
Celebrate the holiday with whatever plans you prefer, just be sure to remember such a pledge, for it is in unity that we remain independent.
by Ruth Heil & Thomas Jefferson