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.
Today, 233 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the work on our country continues. As we have prospered and grown, many people seem to have forgotten the importance of being active and engaged as citizens, that their job is to pursue their happiness, and their responsibility to remind government leaders who is in charge.
Government continues to move, grow and push into areas when the people do not push back. Today this includes not only the traditional areas of national defense, civil services and education, but also financial services, automotive, mortgages and, soon, health care. There is no area in your life that today’s government bureaucrats do not think they can do better than the private sector. It is our responsibility to let them know they are wrong.
This year, instead of reflecting on a fun one-day celebration, let’s follow the lead of our founding fathers and continue to work on the people’s independence. While our founders declared their independence on July 4th 1776, it took more than 12 years to win our independence and inaugurate our first president.
This week, read out loud a copy of the Declaration of Independence, share it with your friends and family. Reflect on the importance and responsibility of citizens of a nation whose forefathers fought and died for our independence. Discuss what it means to “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.” Pledge to yourself, and to your friends and family, that you will work to remind government who is in charge.
Our rights come from God, loaned to the government, by our (the people’s) consent. Let us thank God for these rights, and remind government leaders that these rights are loaned to them - by us. The people once again - need to declare their independence.