On this July 4th, we feature some excerpts from the United States Declaration of Independence.
All Men are Created Equal
The most well-known sentence from the Declaration isn’t as self-evident as many of us would like to believe:
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.
Contrary to the Declaration, many Americans believe that all men have not been created equally, that some deserve rights more than others, and that it’s fine to take away some people’s rights to liberty if it provides some comfort or convenience to a group of influential citizens. I’m thankful for those working tirelessly to advocate the truths memorialized in the Declaration and for those who are willing to learn and live these truths.
Evidence of Tyranny
In separating from the kingdom of Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress also included evidence that the King of Great Britain had repeatedly injured Americans and usurped their rights and liberties. Among the facts of absolute tyranny submitted in the Declaration:
- He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
- 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 obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
- 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 plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
Of course, a leader of the United States, our President, should be committed to complying with and upholding the laws of our country. The President should encourage, and not suppress, administrative laws of immediate and pressing importance. The President should never discourage lawmaking to accommodate large groups of people by making it conditional on those groups giving up their right to representation. The President should not obstruct justice or make judges dependent on the President’s will, including with respect to the judges’ tenures. The President should not erect a multitude of new department and agencies to harass groups of Americans and should not keep among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislatures. And the President should never plunder our seas, ravage our coasts, burn our towns, or destroy the lives of any group of Americans.
Abraham Lincoln’s Warning (The Atlantic)
“Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines in conflict with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence,” he declared in 1858, “if you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its grandeur and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated in our charter of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the revolution.”
In this moment, nothing could be more patriotic than protest. After all, our country was founded as an act of bold resistance. The Declaration of Independence we celebrate on July Fourth was not merely the expression of one’s right to protest; it was the exercise of that right.