Today’s the 234th birthday of The United States of America. Born July 4, 1776, as 56 brave men signed a pledge birthing government of the people, America received her first birthday present.
“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 them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, with a little help from Ben Franklin and John Adams. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Also self-evident, The Declaration of Independence begins with an acknowledgment of God’s blessings, and ends with an outright call for his help:
“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.”
One year later Philadelphia held a celebration on July 4, and by 1783 several other cities had adopted it as a national day of celebration. Congress, keenly attuned to the will of the people, finally officially proclaimed July 4 as Independence Day in 1941.
O’er the ensuing centuries other facets of the Declaration have been scrutinized, debated and contested in court by the governed as the country grew.
“Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends,” wrote Jefferson, “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 affect their safety and happiness.”
E’en as America celebrates “one nation, under God, indivisible,” debate continues over a new immigration statute enacted by Arizona. The most vocal opponents to that state’s stance do not live there; is it not the right of the people of Arizona to alter or institute new government so as to effect — for them — safety and happiness?
“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism,” advises the Declaration, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
Contemporary America has witnessed a rising tide of vocal middle class taxpayers fed up with an ever-burgeoning federal government and a Congress seemingly content with the notion that more programs at the cost of higher and more numerous taxes upon that beleaguered middle class provides the solution to all problems.
From sea to shining sea, Americans concerned with the direction our federal government has taken have called into question the actions of Congress and the president. Consequently, longtime incumbents have been defeated; other incumbents, perhaps lacking the courage to stand on their record, have taken their pensions and run.
Americans fed up with the status quo in Washington are simply following advice found in The Declaration of Independence. They list, publicly, their grievances with the White House and Congress, and some of those grievances sound eerily similar to those which fomented the Revolution, itself.
Jefferson enumerated “...the history of repeated injuries and usurpations...” which led to the break from England’s rule.
“He (the present King of Great Britain) has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good,” wrote Jefferson. “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 erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
“He has combined with others...and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation: for imposing taxes on us without our consent...for abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments.”
“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.”
America’s sitting president undertook to apologize to the world for America’s stature, on one occasion bowed to a foreign potentate, and declared that America is no longer a Christian nation. His Executive Orders created panels whose czars answer only to him, thereby skirting the oversight of Congress and avoiding the checks-and-balances provided by the Constitution. He railroaded a health care program rife with pork through Congress, with no clear mandate from, or consent of, the governed.
Our great nation received a magnificent birthday present on July 4, 1776: The Declaration of Independence. While celebrating 234 years of freedom, Americans would do well to heed the advice therein, penned by three wise men and ratified by 56 stalwart patriots.
Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.