While the Declaration of Independence formally declared our independence from Great Britain, it accomplished so much more. Its unique combination of general principles and government theory has resulted in an enduring nation.

With Independence Day just around the corner, it is important to be reminded of our Founding Fathers’ foresight and why the Declaration’s principles matter 236 years later.

“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,” drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was unanimously approved on July 4, 1776 by the Continental Congress.  In the second paragraph, the Declaration spells out the fundamental principles of American government:

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.

The term “self-evident” is used to describe the previously mentioned rights because they represent acknowledged and affirmed liberties inherent in human nature.

Understanding the meaning of equality is essential, as it is the premise upon which the “self-evident” truths are understood. This notion of equality does not ensure equality of ability, nor does it demand a communistic equality of results or condition. Despite our differences, there exists a fundamental human truth: no one is born to rule or be ruled. This understanding equality requires legitimate government to be based on “the consent of the governed.”

Government exists to defend our rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Our right to life ensures that no one can lawfully threaten the life of another. Our right to liberty guarantees freedom from political coercion. Happiness, explains The Heritage Foundation’s analysis of the Declaration, “is not about self-satisfaction or stupefied pleasure but rather a life lived to its full potential—human flourishing.”

“Politically, the most important right is the right of self-government,” Heritage’s analysis continues. “Violation of government by consent calls forth the right, if not the duty, of ‘the people’ (not any angry individual or mob) to ‘alter or to abolish’ a government destructive of rights and to ‘institute new government’ that will bring about ‘their safety and happiness.'”

The ringing phrases of The Declaration of Independence speak to everyone who strives for liberty and supports the principles of self-government. This Independence Day, enjoy the cookouts, fireworks, and other Fourth of July festivities, but don’t forget the reasons why we have so much to celebrate.

Click here to read more about the Declaration of Independence

How do you celebrate the principles of the Founders?

Comments (14)

Nancy Reynolds - July 3, 2012

Until I could no longer walk the several blocks to the fromt steps of Main Hall at Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC, we would sit in folding chairs and hear the Moravian brass band playing patriotic and sacred music . This was prior to the complete reading of the Declaration of Independence — first done in this place in 1783 making it the very first Independence Day celerbration in our great country!!! This year, 2012, there will be a naturalization ceremony immediately after the reading. It doesn’t get more patriotic than this celebration carrying on a tradition begun 229 years ago.

Bill - July 3, 2012

We have a picnic lunch at home, but before anyone can eat, we read the Declaration of Independence. (Copies of the Declaration can be obtained from your menber of Congress, as well as Heritage and other organizations.) Our tradition started many years ago, and we find it rewarding as well as a reminder of the principles of liberty, the origin of our rights, and what was wrong with British rule.

J.L.T. - July 3, 2012

Speaking of living up to human potential, I like what president John Adams said about basic principles.

John Adams
SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; JUDGE; DIPLOMAT; ONE OF TWO SIGNERS OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; SECOND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.1
The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no authority, civil or religious – there can be no legitimate government but what is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation.
Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company: I mean hell.
The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!
I have examined all religions, and the result is that the Bible is the best book in the world.

John Stevenson - July 3, 2012

The following is my response to our new Presbyterian pastor who stopped the traditional AMVETS’ squad from presenting the Colors in the church if they carried rifles during our Patriot Sunday Service. Please correct my thinking. Thank you

Dear Pastor,
I missed seeing the traditional entrance of the colors, carried by the AMVETS. Admittedly, it takes some time but it is not just pageantry. It renews that commitment that we will defend that flag and this Nation’s freedom of Religion by force and sacrificing life if necessary. It is a moment to give tribute to those in uniform, carrying arms, most of whom fought remotely to preserve our Religious Freedom. Many sons and daughters of the church served, some gave all. During the service several rose and watched to see who still could when the service songs were played. The church has a history of proud service.

I was in the Cold War, 55-58, when the Soviets threatened to come over the North Pole with nukes. They were met and turned back with never a weapon or rocket fired. I was trained as an fighter-interceptor pilot. I never had to go on a scramble. I gave up combat chances when requested to serve as the 64th Air Division Commander’s aide. This allowed my wife to join me in Newfoundland in a week.

This Nation could have been a Soviet satellite. But Power and Leadership preserved us. So, it distresses me today to see this Nation pandering to Putin who is getting everything he really wants.
You cannot yield but very little to Russia, Iran and N. Korea. They don’t mind losing their people for a gain in power. We just don’t dare being observed less than the world power which is the POWER OF JUSTICE.

We have to pray we keep the 56 men who gave all and their families satisfied that we can preserve the Republic and the Constitution. They gave us these Freedoms! And we have to remind the younger generations, many of whom have already forgotten 9-11.
Savor the Fourth and love to you and your family.
John

Major D - July 3, 2012

My wish on this Independence Day is that we celebrate united under the common bond of being citizens of this great nation and remember to never take our ability to have civil debate for granted.

Lorette Geyer - July 3, 2012

Our homeschool group will be presenting a dramatization of the Declaration at our social 4th of July Celebration!

Edwin W Foley - July 3, 2012

Prayer, fly the flag, salute the flag. Since every day is “Independence Day” to me, I do all 3, on a daily basis. Sincerely, Ed Foley.

Mary Poulter - July 4, 2012

In taking up your challenge to have the Declaration read on the 4th of July, I organized a Flag raising ceremony and reading at the LDS Church on Teasley Lane in Denton, Texas. At 7:30AM this morning, over 100 people gathered for a pancake breakfast. At 8:00, the flag was raised by our Boy Scouts to a trumpeter playing “To The Colors.” We all said the pledge of Allegiance and the “Star Spangled Banner” was sung by a lovely soprano. Our Bishop Smith then read the Declaration of Independence followed by a powerful baritone singing “God Bless America” with he audience joining in on the second chorus. So many people were moved and said that this should be a regular celebration. I already have asked three very talented brothers to sing the National Anthem next year. Thank you for giving me the spark to make this happen.
GOD BLESS AMERICA
Mary Poulter

Robert L. Brown - July 4, 2012

Go to Facebook under Robert LBrown, and read my version of the Declaration of Independence and New Constitution. Tell me how wrong I might be!!

Cheryl Carroll - July 4, 2012

This may sound odd, but every 4th of July I watch the movie “Gettysburg”. I prefer the shorter version that came out in movie theatres in the early ’90’s. But, for this holiday I watch the 4 hour version. As a Yankee, I married a man from Chattanooga in the late 60’s. I love the South and the North. Watching the film that demonstrates the struggle our nation faced during the Civil War confirms my LOVE for this great nation. Sometimes we have to go through the Crucible to come out stronger and more resolute than we were before. Oh, for those of you who do not know….the Battle of Gettysburg ended on July 3rd. God bless our great nation and its people. Thank God for giving us FREEDOM!

Toni DelVecchio - July 5, 2012

Toni DelVecchio – July 5, 2012
Thank you for reminding Americans to observe the true meaning of the 4th of July and for encouraging us to use the opportunity to honor America in settings with families, friends, and members of our communities.
We are a newly formed Religious Liberty Group at Cure’ of Ars Parish ( Merrick, NY) and we combined prayer (Fortnight for Freedom), a reading of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and historical perspective on the birth of our nation, the courage to endure and the blessings of God on our great nation.

Brett Moffatt - July 9, 2012

I study politically incorrect history, otherwise known as the truth. I try to educate others to the struggles our Confederate ancestors and Founding Fathers endured to try to pass on a constitutional republic to us. We must educate people, and work to get our government back under the Constitution. The past 150 years of BIG GOVERNMENT have all but eradicated liberty in the land. If I can be of assistance to you in any way, let me know. The resources I have on hand are amazing, and I’d be glad to share.

Sammy - March 20, 2017

I think it is BAD!!!

Kerigan - April 10, 2019

I think the things people did back then we’re very un okay and very unsettle especially slavery.

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