Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. A Declaration to Be Read

 

founding-fathers-declaration-of-independence“Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.” — Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting opinion Obergefell v. Hodges 2015

On July 4, 1776, the final language of the formal Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. The official vote for independence from Great Britain had taken place two days earlier, so it is somewhat confusing that the 4th has become known as Independence Day. To my mind, July 2nd should be Independence Day, but July 4th would be better understood as Liberty Day, a celebration of the most concise and complete explanation of liberty published before or since, anywhere on the globe.

Both the document and the actions produced by the Continental Congress in the summer of ’76 were turning points in the history of mankind that had taken thousands of years to reach. It is a common suggestion at this time of year to sit down and read the Declaration of Independence, individually or as a family, to remember the day beyond the standard family BBQ. But reading without understanding it is to miss the point, and treating the Declaration as something that fell out of the air — or Thomas Jefferson’s head — is to miss the thousands of years of thought, failed experiments, hopes, bloody struggles, and of progress measured in inches and human lives that preceded it.

Read “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and understand how putting those ideals to paper and practice changed what had been the human condition until that time. This was a document for the future as well as the present. The phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” had been “life, liberty, and property” in Jefferson’s original draft. This would have been exactly in line with the Lockean view that most of the Founders shared. But in the Committee of Five, Franklin suggested the change, lest the document be later used to argue for the preservation of slavery. Even the majority of those slave holders present felt the contradiction and saw the need for ending the institution even if they were perplexed as to how to do it. They didn’t have the answer at the present and were faced with the already seemingly impossible task of creating a nation. They knew this would have to happen to fulfill the vision of the document.

Read the long list of complaints against the British government, and then re-read them again in light of our own modern government and its intrusions.

We should also remember that, at that time, almost every person in the world would have envied the life of an American colonist. The average colonist was better fed, freer, and more prosperous than the average Englishman and they lived under the protection of a great and ascending military power.

Despite the Howard Zinn-type history that has soaked into our society today, this was not about the dollars and cents of a bigger share for the merchant class. All of those men very much had a lot to lose. In fact, most saw a sharp turn in their fortunes after signing the document. It was not safety that they sought.

It is altogether proper that we remember the nation on Independence Day, but I it is altogether more important to remember Liberty and its culture. It was that culture of liberty that had become a distinct part of the American character, making our soil fertile for the world’s first government sown with liberty as its purpose.

Patriotism and nationalism can be fine qualities, but only if their object is worthy; if not, the nation is just a place on a map. The patriots of the 1770s all loved their own homes, the swamps of South Carolina, the hollows and ridges of the “over mountain” country, the lush sea board and valley of Virginia, the wooded, fertile soil of the Ohio, and the stone clan farms of New England. Many of us today claim homes far from these places, and our souls feel at rest among towering granite mountains of the Rockies, or on plains that stretch beyond the reach of the eye, or in deserts of the Southwest, or in rainy, cold coast lines of the Northwest.

What makes us a nation worth fighting for, worth living in, are those words in the Declaration and the government that formed out of them in the Constitution. The culture of liberty is our sacred trust.

This culture and its trust can be a burden because, with it, comes the duty to protect and expand it. It was not intended for us alone: We are the example to the rest of the world of how it can work.

To guard and grow this culture, we must protect it. To become American, one must become assimilated into that culture. That is the reason for immigration control, the protection and growth of the culture of liberty. When that culture is lost, our nation purpose is lost.

We have done a poor a job of assimilating even our own people to the liberty culture. That assimilation begins with the understanding of the Declaration of Independence, its history, its values, its ideals, and its clear statement of our national purpose.

Liberty is a risky, messy, unsure thing. It requires bravery. Risk is built into it because we are human and therefore fallible. It often requires failure and new beginnings. That is why a determined people must stand behind it. In 1776, the Crown offered low-risk, clear paths for the future and a share in a worldwide economic system (to be determined an ocean away) and protection by a great military power. The 56 men who — one by one, state by state — signed the document before them chose liberty and self-determination over those assurances.

If a free people are to survive, they must value liberty and self-determination more than assurances of safety and subsidies from government. That is why today day (if none other), one should read the Declaration of Independence and recall that it was much more than an act of patriotism. It was about Liberty, the defining element of the American culture and character, without which neither are worthy of celebration. It is our sacred duty to protect and grow that liberty by first understanding and teaching it, and then living it to the fullest.

There are 25 comments.

  1. BrentB67 Inactive

    Read the long list of complaints against the British government. And then read them again in light of our own modern government and its intrusions.

    I don’t think this can be emphasized enough. Too many folks stop after the preamble and declaration and do not read the reasons why.

    Most people probably don’t read them out of shame as many of the factors are alive and well in contemporary America and now self imposed rather than by a distant crown.

    • #1
    • July 3, 2016, at 7:00 AM PST
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  2. BrentB67 Inactive

    Additionally, consider reading the stories of those who signed the declaration. Many of them and their families suffered mightily for this act.

    • #2
    • July 3, 2016, at 7:01 AM PST
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  3. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Well said.

    • #3
    • July 3, 2016, at 7:22 AM PST
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  4. Titus Techera Contributor

    I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science. After all, men more learned & also more thoughtful than almost anyone now alive then spake & wrote–never did the word culture pass into their official speeches. Does it even really appear in their private correspondence?

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    • #4
    • July 3, 2016, at 7:59 AM PST
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  5. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Titus Techera:

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    As long as there are also fireworks and beer.

    • #5
    • July 3, 2016, at 8:06 AM PST
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  6. Titus Techera Contributor

    Mark:

    Titus Techera:

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    As long as there are also fireworks and beer.

    I’ve gone through more than a few beers by now. This was barbecue day. One of the ol’ national poets–playwright, actually–who died in exile in Berlin–he’d had enough of Romania, oh, about an hundred years back, was also a brewer in his day–recently, someone dug up his recipes & now somewhere in Moos, in Bavaria, that beer is again being made. It’s a white beer–wheat, unfiltered–& it’s a treat, at least for my social class!

    We don’t do fireworks–you’ll have to take care of that on your end!

    • #6
    • July 3, 2016, at 8:16 AM PST
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  7. Seawriter Member

    An audio version courtesy of Librivox.

    Seawriter

    • #7
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:03 AM PST
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  8. Jules PA Member

    Ole Summers,

    Thank you for this


    Seawriter,

    could you share the link to the audio?

    • #8
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:17 AM PST
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  9. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    What a great post.

    • #9
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:26 AM PST
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  10. I Walton Member

    First rate. Thanks.

    • #10
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:26 AM PST
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  11. I Walton Member

    Titus Techera:I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science. After all, men more learned & also more thoughtful than almost anyone now alive then spake & wrote–never did the word culture pass into their official speeches. Does it even really appear in their private correspondence?

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    They assumed culture. Unlike moderns who either dismiss it like marxists, assume it away like economists, or focus only on their little clique part of it, like academics.

    • #11
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:31 AM PST
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  12. BrentB67 Inactive

    Great to see this on the front page. Well Done! Ed’s.

    • #12
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:37 AM PST
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  13. Titus Techera Contributor

    I Walton:

    Titus Techera:I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science. After all, men more learned & also more thoughtful than almost anyone now alive then spake & wrote–never did the word culture pass into their official speeches. Does it even really appear in their private correspondence?

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    They assumed culture. Unlike moderns who either dismiss it like marxists, assume it away like economists, or focus only on their little clique part of it, like academics.

    I recall one of the more striking phrases one of the more striking among your Founders committed to paper: Politics is the deepest reflection on human nature.

    It seems to me these men are worth taking seriously, even by Americans. To other races, they can seem like a conspiracy of demigods, daring to say politics could be organized by reflection & choice rather than accident & force–as another of your daring Founders wrote. Presumably, Americans have a sense of ownership & an experience of being American that makes them far less impressed–after all, the practical business of living American lives puts limits on contemplation… But they never spake of culture-

    • #13
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:40 AM PST
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  14. Seawriter Member

    Jules PA:Seawriter,

    could you share the link to the audio?

    Click the link. It off of Librivox.org, a marvelous source for public domain audio books.

    Seawriter

    • #14
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:46 AM PST
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  15. Kay of MT Member

    It has occurred to me since much of our nation’s people are secular or atheist the Declaration of Independence means nothing to them. As they don’t believe in G-d, they have no interest in upholding it.

    • #15
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:53 AM PST
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  16. Jules PA Member

    Seawriter:

    Jules PA:Seawriter,

    could you share the link to the audio?

    Click the link. It off of Librivox.org, a marvelous source for public domain audio books.

    Seawriter

    TY.

    • #16
    • July 4, 2016, at 8:53 AM PST
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  17. Percival Thatcher

    Well done, Ole.

    Titus Techera: I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science.

    Working on it, Titus.

    • #17
    • July 4, 2016, at 9:01 AM PST
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  18. I Walton Member

    Titus Techera:

    I Walton:

    Titus Techera:I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science. After all, men more learned & also more thoughtful than almost anyone now alive then spake & wrote–never did the word culture pass into their official speeches. Does it even really appear in their private correspondence?

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    I recall one of the more striking phrases one of the more striking among your Founders committed to paper: Politics is the deepest reflection on human nature.

    But they never spake of culture-

    Yes, culture is received, absorbed in the family, from the pulpit, and interacting, it’s embeded in institutions, mores, habits of thought, not constructed or imposed. They knew this in their bones and knew that the virtue contained in it was essential to their political project.

    • #18
    • July 4, 2016, at 9:27 AM PST
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  19. Ned Vaughn Inactive

    Bravo! And thank you. Happy Independence Day!

    • #19
    • July 4, 2016, at 10:55 AM PST
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  20. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Wonderful post, thanks! Happy Birthday, America! (Even if we still are paying taxes on tea.)

    • #20
    • July 4, 2016, at 11:30 AM PST
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  21. tigerlily Member

    BrentB67:

    Read the long list of complaints against the British government. And then read them again in light of our own modern government and its intrusions.

    I don’t think this can be emphasized enough. Too many folks stop after the preamble and declaration and do not read the reasons why.

    Most people probably don’t read them out of shame as many of the factors are alive and well in contemporary America and now self imposed rather than by a distant crown.

    Yes, and some of the complaints seem as if they’re about current events – He has created a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and to eat our substance.

    For imposing taxes on us without our consent.

    He has combined, with others, to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws.

    For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering, fundamentally, the powers of our governments.

    BTW – Great post Ole Summers!

    • #21
    • July 4, 2016, at 1:00 PM PST
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  22. Western Chauvinist Member

    Ole Summers: Liberty is a risky, messy, unsure thing. It requires bravery. Risk is built into it because we are human and therefore fallible. It often requires failure and new beginnings. That is why a determined people must stand behind it. In 1776, the Crown offered low-risk, clear paths for the future and a share in a worldwide economic system (to be determined an ocean away) and protection by a great military power. The 56 men who — one by one, state by state — signed the document before them chose liberty and self-determination over those assurances.

    So beautiful! The Founders had that rarest and most essential of virtues: courage. We’ll read the Declaration today, but I’m going to read this post to my friends and family first. Thanks, OS.

    • #22
    • July 4, 2016, at 1:33 PM PST
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  23. Front Seat Cat Member

    I love this Holiday! We are so lucky to live in this country – take nothing for granted – we’ll get through this election and it will still be a great country. Posts like this remind us of that – we are the envy of the world – and this is why everyone comes here – tries to sneak in – those that try to destroy us because they hate what we have – we have so much to thank our forefathers for, thank our troops who continue to defend what our freedom stands for, we have prosperity, work – we are not Venezuela, so Happy 4th of July to my beloved friends on Ricochet – – we are grilling hot dogs, corn, beans, potato salad, wine, Corona, local fireworks at 8:30 central – we have an election coming – we will be better for it – we are not under siege, controlled like Russia, under attack like the Middle East – I am thankful.

    • #23
    • July 4, 2016, at 3:45 PM PST
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  24. Saint Augustine Member

    Titus Techera:I think out of respect to your Founding documents, you could try to restore their political science. After all, men more learned & also more thoughtful than almost anyone now alive then spake & wrote–never did the word culture pass into their official speeches. Does it even really appear in their private correspondence?

    Whoever wants to have a discussion of the political science of the Declaration–how about it? I’m a pretty good reader & a pol.sci guy. I’m sure others are even better qualified & even cleverer than I am–invite them over–that would be a really fine thing to do for the upcoming 4th!

    PM me if a new conversation starts on that subject, please.

    • #24
    • July 4, 2016, at 3:58 PM PST
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  25. Del Mar Dave Member

    On the shore of Idaho’s Lake Pend Oreille, at about sundown, I read the Declaration to a group of friends gathered for an Independence Day celebration. As I went through the reading, it was really hard for me to keep it together. A number of the adults later said that they’d not heard more than a few of the oft-quoted phrases. And everybody agreed that many of the charges cited in the “…History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations…” are applicable today.

    Then our host treated us to a massive, celebratory fireworks display that, in California, would have landed at least some of us in jail.

    • #25
    • July 5, 2016, at 12:50 AM PST
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