Today is the 4th of July, American Independence Day. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted for Independence, and John Adams remarked the day would be remembered with fireworks and celebrations. The Declaration of Independence was dated July 4th, 1776 and was signed months later on August 2nd. Now, as that event continues to ring across the centuries, Americans celebrate the founding of the United States of America and its successful separation from the British Empire every year on the 4th of July with fireworks and celebrations. The American Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
On this day each year, it is common for Americans to commemorate this historic moment out of gratitude and tradition. We are thankful for this nation which gives us a place to thrive and grow with opportunities one does not find outside of a nation. A nation is a collective piece of Humanity which has banded together under a common banner for the purposes of pursuing common goals and missions. Here in the United States, that mission is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To create a more perfect society, a plan was set in motion by the Founding Fathers where all human beings were created equal and consent of the governed was maintained. Centuries later, the American people have made great strides on that mission, despite the many battles and other hurdles we have faced along the way.
The American Revolutionary War happened during a time when the rule of monarchy and divine providence was coming to an unceremonious end. The American Revolution was part of that when the Continental forces stood up to the British Empire and the word of King George III. When the “shot heard round the world” rang off on April 18, 1775, it ignited a conflict that was years in the making as tensions mounted between the Colonies and the British monarch. The incident was ignited when British soldiers attempted to confiscate weapons and ammunition stockpiled by the American colonists. It is uncertain who fired the first shot. However, I would like to imagine the American colonists fired first in order to stop or at least deter the attempted human rights violation.
This incident led to the brief, but intense conflict known as the American Revolutionary War. Lasting only a year, it was the culmination of the political and ideological revolution which is noted to have began with the Stamp Act of 1765; informally ending with the Declaration of Independence in 1776; and finally seeing an official cessation of hostilities with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The Americans rejected the divine claim of the king to rule over them, and asserted that people are all created equal and thus should have the right to self-govern; elect their own representatives; and remove those in power if they fail to adequately represent their constituents. It was a drastic step toward the ideal of liberty and justice for all that stood in stark contrast from how humans had tended to organize and govern themselves before.
It is useful to celebrate this momentous occasion for a variety of reasons. It helps to maintain national unity, which the signers of the U.S. Constitution knew would be an issue and made them hesitant to ratify the document as it was. It is said that Benjamin Franklin responded to a group of citizens who asked him what type of government they had decided upon as he took his leave from the Constitutional Convention. His answer was brief and to the point: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The celebration of Independence Day is a time where we can all appreciate the sacrifices made for us by generations past, as well as the burden placed upon us in order to maintain the gift we were given.
In a letter to Abigail Adams dated July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote these words:
"I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States.—Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
In remembering and celebrating the gift of this nation bestowed upon us, we remind ourselves of the duty accompanying it. The tyranny of the majority is a major flaw of democracies by which societies have been destroyed. Indeed, it was a democratic movement which fomented the rebellion against the British Empire. The signers of the Constitution knew this, and knew it would be a threat to the stability of the United States in the future. Indeed, it was not long before internal rebellions occurred in the U.S. under similar pretext and justifications as were used in the initial revolt against King George III, such as the Whiskey Rebellion of 1974.
It can be difficult to discern which rebellions are just and which are unjust. Certainly, as we have seen with the wave of socialist revolutions which swept the Earth in the 20th Century and led to destitution for the afflicted communities, not all uprisings are done in good faith and actually benefit the people. However, there have obviously been revolts in human history which were a net benefit, and the distinction between them is assuredly found in the details of who is fighting; what they are fighting for; and why. This takes critical thinking skills and a careful consideration of the issues at hand, as well as what should be done about them. This is why the rebellion against the British Empire was vigorously debated before, during, and after.
Yet forces are always pushing and pulling in all such directions so as to upheave the status quo at almost all points in human history, and not unpleasantly so. After all, nothing new or improved is ever gained by adhering to the status quo indefinitely. However, some things do need to be maintained as tradition is important to survival. As such, it is prudent to take the time this day to remember the careful consideration given to the American Revolution. It was not something done on a whim. The fighting itself was brief, yet the entire movement involved many years of careful discussions. Documents such as the Declaration of Independence are examples of the careful consideration which went into this movement, and that intensity of thought which is necessary to ensure such a conflict is in the best interests of the people and is worthy of appreciation.
The Declaration of Independence was a treasonous document against the high crown of King George III. It was a bold statement which declared that people have inalienable rights which are so intrinsic to their being as to be inseparable, even if they voluntarily choose to waive those rights. These would eventually be expounded upon in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. However, the Declaration of Independence was the initial document to articulate what it was that the current system of government was doing wrong; why it was wrong; and what was happening to be done about it.
The Declaration of Independence was a bold statement against the status quo of common violation of human rights at the hands of existing governments, by declaring the inherent nature of said rights and their preeminence to the government. According to the Declaration, it was the duty of the government to protect the natural rights possessed by all humans – which were in their view endowed by God, their Creator – and that there was a systematic failure on behalf of the British Empire to do so. Moreover, the Empire was identified as the perpetrator of the systematic violations, and this disqualified them from being able to govern any further.
On this day, it would be wise to read the Declaration of Independence and appreciate the thought which went into this wonderous document. We can appreciate the relevance of its words on natural rights and the preeminence of those rights to the government. This is a document which not only was carefully crafted and carries timeless wisdom, but was also the founding document which officially recognized the birth of the nation many owe their current existence to. If it were not for the ability of humans to form nations with various systems, every individual would have to be their own survival system and the people as a whole would not be able to accomplish as much since the individual would be consumed each day with ensuring basic survival needs are met. Yet, while gifting us with a nation we all share, the Declaration still champions the rights of the individual as paramount, stating the collective nation is not allowed to subvert individual rights for the purposes of maintaining any system.
The Declaration of Independence – signed July 4th, 1776 – was truly an astounding artifact of human history which we all can appreciate and celebrate. I was happy to see the people of my community celebrating today with a parade in town, and the fireworks which blanket the sky each night over the weekend. Independence Day is a joyous occasion in which we give reverence to the Declaration of Independence; the years of discourse which led up to it; the months of battles which were fought for it; and the rights and responsibilities bestowed to Americans by it. It is an honor to be an American and to have the duty to both uphold these traditional American values, as well as defend them against future threats.
Do you celebrate American Independence Day? If so, I recommend taking a minute to read the Declaration of Independence if you do not already do so as part of your celebrations. Also, what other festivities do you engage in to celebrate Independence Day, and what else would you recommend to better commemorate the Declaration? If you live in a different country, do you have a similar holiday you celebrate? What do you know about the history and meaning behind that holiday, and what can you do to honor that history?
You can read a full transcription of the Declaration of Independence here.
Happy 4th of July, everyone!
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