Here is something that is interesting. In many ways the country The United States of America was created by it’s Constitution and yet we consider our “birthday” the day that we publicly declared our independence, over a decade before the Constitution was created and many years before that independence was won militarily. (Regarding my wording – Independence was declared on the 2nd of July, but they spent two day nitpicking the wording of the document and such. On the 2nd, John Adams wrote Abigail that the 2nd of July, the day independence was declared, would be a huge national holiday.)
A lot has been said about this document, but these days we often focus on this: “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.”
Lincoln spoke at length about that sentence. The famous Lincoln-vs-Douglas debates were centered on these ideas, with Douglas saying (pretty much) that only white men could be considered true men. Lincoln disagreed. During the seventh debate he said, “They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere”. In 1858 (the same year as the debates, but I don’t see a source to see if it was in the debates) he said, “[T]here is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man.” Side note – To me it seems that Lincoln said “Black Lives Matter”.
The Declaration of Independence has been held up as the philosophical groundwork of our nation.
Are we still laboring to achieve this “standard maxim” that the founding fathers declared? Are we “constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere” or are we giving it all to the ultra-rich with a few bits of “bread and circuses” (modern day = “guns and reality TV shows” or perhaps “flags and tweets”) thrown in to keep the masses from rebelling?
I just (today) reread the Declaration of Independence and a few articles about it. As with other such things, it is a living document that each generation reinterprets. The goal of a country and a government are constantly being reinterpreted. I, for one, am not the type of person to think the words of the past are carved in granite, because times and understandings do change, but that we do need to remember the wisdom of those who came before us.
So, here are a few words about the meaning of government from this document (this comes directly after the famous “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” line):
“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.”
In our case, I would hope you take “abolish it” as meaning through constitutional means, i.e., by voting in people who look after the people, “all people, of all colors, everywhere”.
Just a political rant as I contemplate the meaning of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and other bedrocks of our nation and freedom.
Happy Independence Day!
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Note – the Lincoln quotes and other such information came from Wikipedia, most from this article.