This week is the 236th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document that officially separated the American colonies from Great Britain.
However, the eloquent words of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson had to be won on the battlefield during the Revolutionary War that followed, which would be no small accomplishment. It pitted the professional soldiers of the best army and navy in the world against a rag-tag collection of volunteers with little or no training. The colonial army was led by George Washington, a veteran of the French and Indian War.
The centerpiece of the Declaration of Independence can be found in Jefferson’s carefully chosen words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Critics would correctly point out that this equality that Jefferson wrote about unfortunately excluded slaves, and to some extent, women. In the crafters’ defense, it should be pointed out the world at that time was deeply enmeshed in the institution of slavery and the status of women was far from equal. To the Founding Fathers’ credit, they wrote a Constitution which would correct those transgressions.
Note that these inalienable rights are granted by a supreme being, not the government. Freedom is something intended by God for mankind to have, not to be granted to us. Our freedom should be unlimited as long as in pursing it, we do not infringe on the rights of others.
The Continental Congress voted July 2, 1776, to pass the resolution, which was signed on July 4. It was primarily written by Jefferson. The document closes with these words: “And for the support of this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Provence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The British colonists embarked on a dangerous course strongly believing in a set of principles which later would be crystalized in our Constitution. The attendees of the Constitutional Convention had no blueprint to follow. They passionately believed what they were attempting was something special.
John Adams, a signer of the Declaration and later our second president, indicated as such in a letter to his wife, Abigail, when he said Independence Day should be marked by parades, sports, bonfires, games and other celebrations.
And so it has been since inception.
We would be remiss if we failed on this day to honor our Constitution, the greatest political document in the history of mankind, which would formalize our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in establishing this republic now celebrating its 236th anniversary.
Laughlin is a Christian Libertarian. He is an economist, teacher, father, husband and most recently a grandfather. He has written a weekly column for The Tribune for 13 years. He and his wife Gina reside in Meadowlakes. To contact him, email email@example.com. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.