It’s only a few words, really. It can be read in five minutes time. Oh, but the power they carry! The inevitable tide on which they ride. The lives given freely in a war that has raged for a year already. For a cause. A cause of shifting shape….
In the beginning, we simply implore that we, the colonies, be given fair representation…consent of the governed…a right guaranteed by the Magna Charta. But when King George arrogantly refuses our entreaties, separation becomes the only viable option. However…
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.
And so they write. Words that elevate and ennoble. Words that challenge and provoke. Words that convict…for we do not always live up to them. Words that speak of hope and of glory. Of right and responsibility.
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, –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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
These words will not come cheap. Each signature on this document is a death warrant. Treason. Treachery. Betrayal. What did these men see that gave them the courage to do what they did? What was the dream that was worth more than their own lives? Could I do this?
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
It is a story that is still being written. By men and women who offer their lives for the cause of freedom, here and around the world. By individuals audacious enough to believe that one person can make a difference, and that each of us has indispensable gifts to bring to the world. Today we honor their forebears. Courageous men who showed us the way.
*To read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, click here. Painting by Brent Godfrey.