Karen and I read the Declaration of Independence around the Fourth of July, out loud. Re-reading refreshes our perspectives of the founders’ noble words that have inspired billions of people to demand and win freedom for their unalienable rights.
Certain words awaken different meanings each year and I want to share the words that have moved me this reading in the hope you may re-read the Declaration of Independence with your family. I used the capitalizations from the original.
The first word that struck me is the second word: unanimous – ”the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.”
Our founders capitalized the word united to name our nation The United States of America. I crave the strength generated by unity with my fellow citizens, even if I merely believe we seek unified ideas rather than destroying or obstructing opposing ideas.
“…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
They embraced a decent respect to the opinions of people living and arriving, yearning for the freedom of unalienable rights. Do we hold a decent respect to listen for opinions that could strengthen our democracy and unite nations of the planet?
“…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The word ‘among’ undeniably declares there are unlisted unalienable rights. Dozens of Declarations followed, such as France’s Declaration of The Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789 and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Does our decent respect for the opinions of mankind lead us to read other Declarations that may contain unalienable rights we should consider? I haven’t.
Jefferson’s three rights are deemed by most historical scholars to come from three natural rights defined by philosopher John Locke, as follows, Life: “Everyone is entitled to live once they are created.” Liberty: “Everyone is entitled to do anything they want to so long as it doesn’t conflict with the first right.’ Locke’s third right was Estate: “Everyone is entitled to own all they create or gain through gift or trade so long as it doesn’t conflict with the first two rights.”
Jefferson substituted Happiness for estate and created perpetual debate about why.
“That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted …”
The founders language viewed governments as institutions by people to secure Rights. The courts have emphasized that word, ‘secure,’ not grant or create.’
Contrast that philosophy with Reagan’s popular axiom that “Government is the problem,” and its inevitable corollary to cut funding to “Starve the beast.”
I think the founders of our Constitution would be disappointed in us today. They crafted language empowering us to build the twin tools of constitutional democracy and regulated capitalism, yet we currently tremble at their judicious use to institute a government that vows to secure unalienable rights for everyone, for better or worse, for richer or poorer and in sickness and health.
“The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of absolute tyranny over these states.”
“To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”
Each Fact begins with “He has ..,”, except for one: “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and Tyranny.”
Our founders feared one man, King George. And they felt abandoned by their ‘British brethren’ after frequent appeals to their legislature, friends and relatives.
“They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.”
Let me, let all US citizens not be deaf to the voice of justice for our brethren. Our Declaration of Independence demands it of us.
Read it and re-read it every year, out loud, and see if doesn’t inspire you to honor the declaration that founded our great nation.