04 July 2016

The Declaration of Independence -- As Relevant Today As In 1776

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare America's independence from Great Britain. Throwing caution to the wind, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor to securing freedom for a fledgling United States of America.

Yet the Founding Fathers did something far more profound that merely tear thirteen colonies away from Great Britain. In putting their names to the Declaration of Independence, they ushered in one mankind's few successful political revolutions. In one single paragraph, Thomas Jefferson brought together all the reason, all the power, all the passion of the Enlightenment to reorder the foundations of governments everywhere:
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.
Coming barely a century after England's chaotic and bloody Civil War, in an age when nearly all monarchs held virtually limitless power over their subjects, Jefferson's words were not merely radical. In a very real sense, the Declaration of Independence was and is the American Revolution. The Declaration of Independence declared not just the creation of a new nation, the United States of America, but declared for all time that, as President John F. Kennedy would later observe in his 1960 inaugural address, "...the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God."

The inalienable rights of man the Continental Congress declared in 1776 were under assault in 1776, they were under assault in 1960, and they are under assault today. In the wake of Great Britain's seismic "Brexit" vote, the European Union seeks to punish the British people for invoking their right to abolish a government deemed hostile to protecting man's inalienable rights--namely, their membership in that political union. In the Middle East, the Islamic State has proclaimed a new Caliphate, and seeks dominion over all Muslims worldwide, as well as the extermination of all non-Muslims. Totalitarian ideologies--fascism in all its myriad malevolent forms--have never ceased inspiring the power-hungry and the power-mad to seek dominion over various parts and peoples of the world.

The Declaration of Independence remains the proper response to all who would dominate and enslave their fellow men. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that when government anywhere is hostile to individual liberty, people everywhere are released from any allegiance to that government. The Declaration reiterates that the duty of free men is not just to resist tyranny, but to erase it, to drive tyrants wherever they may be into oblivion.

So long as tyranny exists in the world, the Declaration of Independence will remain relevant, not just to Americans, but to all people, in all places, at all times.

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