By Michael Fuqua
I haven’t written anything in a while. My last post was May 29 of this year. It just seems that the events of the world have become a bit overwhelming and anything I might say would do one of three things. It would piss off one side of an argument, or it would piss off another side of the same argument, or I might struggle to articulate my thoughts in the face of such enormous angst that we see every day in our country. Or at least we are being told exists. So most of the time I just watch and concentrate of seeking the good that I know is out there.
But tomorrow is a bit different. We have a lot of national holidays. You know them. Or maybe you don’t. I’m of an age that the holidays of my childhood have morphed to a whole new set. But regardless, July 4 is a real constant. We celebrate our nation’s birth on July 4 with flags, fireworks, barbecues, parades, and all sorts of hoopla. Many places like to tout an “old fashioned Fourth”…whatever that means. But whatever you do to celebrate or even if you don’t celebrate at all, it’s worth remembering how this whole experiment in democracy started. When days like July 4 come along I tend to write about it. You can read last year’s post here.
This year I think I’ll write a little bit about why we celebrate the Fourth. Imagine a group of people living in what was really a wilderness, or at the very least on the edge of wilderness. Live was hard! The new world had only been inhabited by Europeans for a couple hundred years and they were still living a pretty tough life. The British Empire had a reach around the world. They possessed what was arguably the worlds strongest military and they ruled with an iron fist. They reaped massive amounts of treasure from their colonies around the world. A big part of that treasure came from taxes imposed on colonists inside the Empire.
At some point the people living in America had had enough. They started rise up. Remember the cry in Boston harbor? “No taxation without representation”. There was a group of these people who had the revolutionary idea that they wanted to live in freedom. I say revolutionary because it was. It that world the vast amount of people in the world lived under the iron rule of a King, despot, or sovereign. They had no rights. Or rather any rights they had were granted by their ruler. The simple truth was that the vast number of people in the world lived in poverty, made worse by what they paid to the throne.
But the unique group of people living in America at that time believed that rights shouldn’t come from a ruler. They believed that human rights came from God. Above all they wanted to throw off the tyranny of a long-distance ruler and live under self government. So they took action.
The action they took was perilous and life-threatening. They decided to declare independence and if it took a fight to achieve independence, so be it. It was hugely risky and getting the leaders of all thirteen colonies to agree was never guaranteed. Once they had general agreement, the document had to be drafted.
These days, Thomas Jefferson is decried as a slaveowner and elite landowner. You can read about the real Thomas Jefferson here. At least who I believe is the real Thomas Jefferson. Anyway, it fell to Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. I don’t know what else to say other than I think it’s the greatest document of it’s kind ever written. I’ll put the whole thing below and you can read it for yourself.
Notice that the date is July 4. The reality is that the document was drafted over the previous few months and finally voted on by representatives from the colonies on July 4. It wasn’t signed until early August, but the document was adopted by 56 representatives on July 4.
So what is the big deal you ask? It was just a document. The leaders of the movement to freedom were the leaders of the country. At that time leaders were defined as landowners, men, white and people of means. They weren’t black or Indians or women, or other minorities. In their world, those people didn’t occupy positions of leadership. But they had a lot to lose. In fact they had everything to lose. So on July 4 the Second Continental Congress officially adopted a document that confessed high treason against Great Britain. They were all in. And that is worth celebrating.
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of 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.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. 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.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. 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 magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, 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. 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.
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