By Tim Norris,
Most people in the United States celebrate the 4th of July, but do you know why the holiday is so important to our country? We celebrate the Declaration of Independence for two important reasons. First, It represents an official severing of ties between the original 13 colonies and the rule of Great Britain. And also, the Declaration represents the core of our beliefs, the very makeup of our identity as citizens of the U.S., making us the envy of the world for the past two hundred fifty years. (If you’ve been watching TV lately you would not get that impression!)
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, presented to the King of England a set of ideas that formed the basis for the American people to separate from England.
The first two paragraphs set the tone;
- 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.
- 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.–
- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
4.That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, 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.
Before 1776, the United States of America was not a country. The individual states were colonies of the British Empire and were ruled by the King and Parliament of Great Britain- the greatest power on Earth at the time. In Verse 1, Jefferson refers to “The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God”, as entitling the citizens to a separate and equal station in political affairs. This was a revolutionary idea for 1776, where most countries, including Great Britain, were ruled by the legal term “Divine Right of Kings.” Verse 2 expounds on the idea by explicitly saying our rights come from God, not the King; and that our rights are unalienable- meaning they could not be divided or taken away; they existed in a “State of Nature” before any government existed, thus the rights of the People were superior to any government structure. The three unalienable rights mentioned in the Declaration are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. In verse 3, we clearly see that Governments are formed only for the purpose of securing those rights given to the “People” by God; and the power given to Government to Rule over the People is derived by “the consent of the Governed.”
These ideas were truly revolutionary at the time. Most of the signers of the Declaration had death sentences placed on them by the King of England. Few believed the Declaration itself would result in the eventual United States of America! But here we are, nearly 250 years later trying to make sense and hold on to the ideas that made America, even today- with all its warts- the envy of the World!
At times, the concept of what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America may seem unclear. For those who already deeply love the United States, and for those who are struggling with the idea, the Declaration can be a guidepost. It is an unassailable document that embodies what it means to be an American, and everything we hold dear.
The Fourth of July is a celebration of America. I celebrate all we stand for as a people of one country: The freedom to believe what we want (in a religious sense), to speak what we feel about our government and the opportunities we have here to be what we desire and continue to learn and grow.
May God continue to bless America!
Tim Norris, a long-time Panhandle resident is past Chairman of the Walton County Republican Party and is the current Republican Party of Florida’s State Committeeman for Walton County. Tim Resides in Santa Rosa Beach with his wife Nancy. The couple have 3 daughters, Calli, Hannah and Piper.
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