For many Independence Day may be just a three day national holiday weekend to do whatever. However, by issuing the Declaration of Independence, adopted by 56 delegates of the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies told the world they had severed their political connections to Great Britain. This declaration summarized the colonists’ rationale and grievances for seeking national sovereignty. By declaring themselves an independent nation, the American colonists were able to conclude an official alliance with the government of France, and obtain French assistance during their revolutionary war against Great Britain. The outcome was that USA, as an idealistic nation of the people, governed by its people, and for its people, was born 238 years ago on July 4, 1776. This is celebrated on Independence Day, the birth of our democracy.
This historical Declaration of Independence is its founding document. It has been included among the most important historical documents ever written. When we speak of ‘civil rights’, we recall the Bill of Rights within the US Constitution, whose beginnings are rooted in the Declaration of Independence.
To get a sense of what motivated the 13 original colonies to secede from the British Empire of that time, I recommend that you read the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution) and a few commentaries. Thomas Jefferson, a founding father, is credited with writing this ‘Declaration of Independence’, but have no doubt that he summarized many new governance ideas discussed by all 56 founding fathers who attended the Continental Congress held at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These ideals are very relevant today. For example:
“Governments are created to secure certain unalienable rights, rights that are granted, not by government or man, but by God.” This is called an appeal to Natural Law. It is apparent the founding fathers felt that God should play an important part in the government of man. They do not go into detail on the nature of God. This was repeated nearly a decade later in the Bill of Rights. The ‘Separation of Church and State’ concept is still being debated. The Church does teach the Decalogue (10 Commandments)….the first four commandments have to do with one’s personal relationship to God. The next six deal with one’s relationships to other individuals. The practice of these six commandments is basic to our current ‘law and order’ society. And no church official has the authority or power to guide our government. The Church does teach us all the basics of our morals and ethics.
The Declaration’s most important diplomatic effect was to allow for recognition of the United States by friendly foreign governments. The Sultan of Morocco mentioned American ships in a consular document in 1777, but Congress had to wait until the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with France for a formal recognition of U.S. independence. The Netherlands acknowledged U.S. independence in 1782. Although Spain joined the war against Great Britain in 1779, it did not recognize U.S. independence until the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Under the terms of the treaty, which ended the War of the American Revolution, Great Britain officially acknowledged the United States as a sovereign and independent nation.
Today, the American people (“We, the People”) do have to address very important public policy matters. Grievances resulting from the inability of the U.S. Congress to conduct governance of this nation in a manner that ‘does the greatest good for the greatest number’ must be given the highest priority. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has made several decisions as the highest court of this nation, which must be addressed. These deal with voting rights, giving corporations the civil rights practiced up to now by an individual citizen; and the economic public policy and taxation issues which enable government to address the needs of the disabled, the poor, and the needy. The role of the American federal government is being challenged by those who fear ‘big government’. Another issue is the recent experience that the very wealthy can, and do, influence legislation through their political donations and support of the activity of lobbyists. The outcomes are that America’s resources and sovereign power are being directed by a few rather than ‘We, The People’. All current grievances can be corrected through the ‘rule of law and order’ as implemented by elected officials who do craft legislation regarding the public policy matters which do ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’.