Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence clearly lays out the principles – both ethically and spiritual – that we stand for.
The opening sentence sets in motion an unequivocal understanding that God gives both independence and equality and that due to the “opinions of mankind” they declare themselves an independent country.
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.
The most famous section concisely and poetically spells out how these new Americans will strive to live their lives both individually and collectively.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…
Once again, Jefferson reaffirms that all men are created equal which may have brought about fraternity among the colonials at the time, but was in fact, an issue not fully decided until a great Civil War.
…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…
“unalienable,” elementary, fixed, fundamental.
…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…
Governments are established by “Men” to safeguard these rights as is their duty to do so as provided by the people.
…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…
When that Government causes harm to those rights and aspirations associated with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the people have a right to dissolve the Government.
…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.
And can establish a new Government based on principles and powers that will work to promote security and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, 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.
The people must be careful, however. You can’t just up and change the Government at the slightest disagreement or fleeting cause. Dissolution of Government should only be brought about after a “long train” of crimes or wrongdoing where the people are living under a dictator or similar form of tyranny. Under such circumstances, it becomes their duty to put forth new sentinels to safeguard their security.
The final section affirms the moral authority of the Colonists’ intentions as good people to break with England and independently stand on their own.
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 conclude with thirty-one words that not only summarize their connection with God but holds each to a promise to stand-up for this Declaration with everything they hold dear including their reputations.
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.
Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Compassion, and Integrity – these are the words we should remember while taking part in all the celebrations. These are the words that should remind us all what America stands for.