The Founding Fathers gave us much more than a future holiday when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.
They gave our nation its stirring start on July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia.
They gave our world an epic call to self-governing freedom that will continue to echo long past this 240th anniversary.
And they gave us profound wording to perpetuate that righteous cause, including:
“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.”
Thomas Jefferson, with a little help from his friends, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, wrote those historic words.
They and 53 other patriots, including South Carolina’s Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr. and Arthur Middleton, signed the document that contained them.
They created an ideal in the 18th century that we must not betray, even as we struggle with a daunting array of 21st challenges at home and abroad.
The declaration fairly listed complaints against “the present King of Great Britain” for intolerable oppressions that necessitated the American colonists’ cessation of ties to the mother country. Among them:
■ “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 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 harass 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.”
The declaration also correctly charged that the crown was “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” and “depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury.”
The signers boldly asserted “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.”
They concluded: “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.”
So while you’re enjoying this glorious Fourth, remember the indispensable contribution to human freedom that is being celebrated with picnics, baseball games, fireworks shows and other festivities.
Remember, too, this “self-evident” truth:
The men who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence gave us — and the world — a priceless gift that we must not squander.
That is the enduring treasure of their vision, wisdom, courage — and yes, their “sacred Honor.”