Yesterday, on July 4th, we celebrated our 233rd Independence Day as a nation. This is the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, but the process of separation from British began years earlier with the Boston Massacre in 1770, where five colonists died. The unease continued in 1773, when the colonists organized the Boston Tea Party to protest a tea tax.
The Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 officially began the American Revolution. On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted for a resolution stating “these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Tasked with writing this “Declaration of Independence,” Thomas Jefferson finished a draft within three weeks and, after a few revisions, Congress adopted it on July 4, 1776.
It says, in part:
“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,”
This document is incredibly important because it acknowledges that the creator gives rights to the people, who then loan the rights to the government. In this model, the creator comes first, then the people and then the government that the people created.
Our model was designed for the people, not the government, to hold the power. Government derives its powers from the consent of the governed (the people). Our declaration reduced the status of government from that of master of the people (as in English rule) to that of servant of the people. However, in real life the governed (that’s us, the people) have to remind the government whom they are supposed to represent.
The end of the American Revolution came six years after it began, when British General Charles Cornwallis formally surrendered at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. However, our new country still had a lot of work to do. Our freedom was won – but now we had to learn how to govern ourselves – how to actually put these high ideals – that we are given certain unalienable rights by God, that we can pursue happiness and that the government is subservient to the people.
More than seven years later, on April 30, 1789, we inaugurated George Washington as our first president. This was a move toward order and stability: our freedom had been declared and won, our Constitution adopted and our president elected and in office.