Last Modified: Tuesday, July 03, 2012 7:25 PM
The Declaration of Independence, ratified on this day in 1776, was a daring and dangerous document for the men who affixed their signatures to it.
These were men of substance who were pledging “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” for independence. Not only could they be signing their own death warrants by signing the Declaration of Independence, they would quite likely lose their property and wealth. On that very day of the signing, thousands of British and Hessian troops were landing on Staten Island in New York. The Americans had first spotted the massive invasion fleet on June 29.
What did the Americans have to gain? If successful, they could gain freedom for themselves and children — freedom to live in a country where it was recognized that “all men are created equal,” and where “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are protected by a government of their own choosing. They also recognized the right of people to abolish governments that fail to protect those rights.
Henry Knox, an American officer in the Continental Army facing those British and Hessian troops on Staten Island, expressed to his wife, Lucy, the feelings of the men who would have to make the Declaration more than just words on paper, when he wrote, “We are fighting for our country, for posterity perhaps. On the success of this campaign the happiness or misery of millions may depend.”
There was much more to the Declaration of Independence than the inspiring opening and closing words. The document also gives a long list of grievances against the government from which they were seceding. Among those grievances against the central government in London included not allowing colonial legislatures to pass local laws, abolishing local laws deemed necessary by the people of those colonies, making local self-government difficult by convening legislatures in inconvenient places, obstructing the administration of justice and making judges dependent on the central government for their tenure.
The Americans were also fed up with the big government bureaucracy of the king and parliament. As they put it in the Declaration, “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” Does that sound familiar?
Other complaints included taxing without the consent of the people, denying trial by jury, quartering troops in people’s homes.
And by what authority did they take these revolutionary acts? Appealing to the “Supreme judge of the world,” and in the “Name, and by authority of the Good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
The founders of this nation hated big, intrusive government. That is also reflected in the founding governing documents, including the Constitution of 1787. They intended the Constitution to be a document that puts “chains” on the federal government, and not one that gives it unlimited powers.
So, give some thought to what the Declaration of Independence means, and ask yourself, “How does our government today measure up to those founding ideals?”
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.
Posted By: Brandt On: 7/4/2012
Title: Films about Freedom
On Independence Day we should celebrate our Constitutional Rights and Freedoms which so many men and women have fought for- including Freedom of Speech, Religion, Assembly and Press. The art of film has been one of the most powerful vessels for conveying the importance of these rights. Check out the Top 10 Movies of All Time about FREEDOM on a special 4th of July post today at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/07/top-10-movies-of-all-time-about-freedom.html to see some impassioned portrayals of our basic rights.