A motion for independence was introduced and agreed to by a majority of the colonies on July 1st, 1776, at the beginning of the Second Continental Congress. The next few days were spent revising the language and the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4th.
Artist, John Trumbull, rendition of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The Declaration of Independence is the quintessential founding document of this nation. It set forth a new dynamic between government and the governed. Essential to that “declaration of independence” and a precursor to it, was another historically significant document, the Magna Carta, celebrated its 800th anniversary this past June 15th.
Magna Carta was actually a philosophical building block that helped to lead to the The Enlightenment. During the Enlightenment, such notable philosophers as Voltaire, Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, John Locke and many others challenged the status quo and argued that reason should be the guiding principal of humanity. Reason not dogma and not tradition for tradition’s sake. The philosophical roots of American liberty put forth the idea that proper and legitimate government authority can only exists with the consent of the governed. It recognized individual human rights to life, liberty and property. It detailed the elements of due process at law. That no man could be deprived of these things without having his day in a fair and impartial hearing. The Founders of this nation understood the onerous power the state holds.
This declaration was a first in human history. It was a manifestation of the developing political and philosophical thought that permeated Western Culture in the day. This was a turning of the tables of power. Man, the individual was asserting his innate human rights.
Further, stating that government is a necessary evil….clearly not a good and benevolent creature and recognizing the need for clear limits on power. These limits were later established out of a basic understand of the nature of power, indeed the nature of man. What Acton opined is universal truth! “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
America’s Declaration of Independence is an articulate expression of truth. It is eloquent and clear in its beauty.
At the time of the signing, this document was a stroke of revolutionary genius and it become part of the reason America earned the moniker, beacon of liberty. Strict limits on government and a recognition that the individual should be free to fully develop his life aspirations to the best of his abilities without interference from the state, provided the individual did not infringe on the liberty of another, were hallmarks of the 18th Century liberty philosophy. That philosophy of limited government served this nation well for over a century. However, during the 19th and 20th Centuries, there were a number of ominous developments with regard to banking, taxation and growth of the state. We now witness that in the 21st Century, the timeless truth that the tendency of power to corrupt has metastasized fully. And so continues this nations slow decline…. death by a thousand cuts.
On Independence Day, I celebrate the freedom of man to assert his rightful liberty in a world run by those who would make him a slave. I give thanks for the many freedoms I have enjoyed throughout my life, though American’s liberty is being murdered by self-serving politicians and bureaucrats. I pray for the future of freedom for my progeny.