Responsibility and freedom
We declared our independence from Great Britain 238 years ago this week. It was a declaration long in coming, brought about by the overreaching rule of King George III and Britain’s insistence on taxation without representation.
The taxation began in the 1760s, the Boston Massacre occurred in 1770, the Boston Tea Party in 1993 and the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April of 1775.
Patrick Henry’s call to action, “Give me liberty or give me death,” was the first strong public statement that, if we were to be free, if we were to have liberty, then we would have to fight Britain. Prior to Henry’s speech to the gathering of Virginia delegates in Richmond, the prevailing belief was that we could negotiate with Britain.
Henry laid down the gauntlet and clearly presented his understanding of what we were facing.
Our choice was liberty or death.
Our founders chose to take the challenge and declared our Independence from Britain on July 4, 1776.
Our Declaration of Independence is a threepart document: the first a declaration of freedom, including our understanding of the natural order of authority and power; the second a long list of grievances, reinforcing the belief that there was no choice but to declare our independence as a free country; the third an acknowledgment of risk and the oath of the signers to one another.
The first section is the one that is most often quoted: “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 second part, less often referenced, lays out the reasoning for why we were seeking independence, a reasoning that included a long list of grievances against King George III.
Our founders concluded the document with the pledge to each other and an invocation of God. Knowing that their declaration would be seen as an act of treason by the king, the signers also knew that, if they were not successful, they would risk losing their lives.
This document declared us free, outlined the foundational understanding of our rights, from whom they came and our responsibilities to maintain them.
According to a Gallup poll released this week, “the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9 percent to 21 percent.” (Face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, sampling error ranges from plus/ minus 1.7 percentage points to plus/minus 5.6 percentage points.) The same release from Gallup speculated that, “the decline in perceived freedom among Americans could be attributed to the U.S. economy.”
It also speculated that, “another possible explanation for the decline in freedom is how Americans feel about their govern- ment.” Gallup noted that 79 percent of Americans believe that “corruption is widespread throughout the government.”
Additionally, “Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30 percent) and Congress (7 percent), and a six-year low for the presidency (29 percent),” based on another Gallup poll (conducted June 5-8, sample of 1,027, plus/minus 4 points).
The introduction of our Declaration of Independence provides for recourse if government becomes destructive to individual rights, “to alter or to abolish it,” meaning the government.
As Americans increasingly believe that our government is corrupt and cannot be trusted, our responsibility, based on our Declaration of Independence, to alter our government becomes more clear and more compelling.
Just as our founding fathers fought for our freedom more than 200 years ago, so must we continue to fight to ensure that our government remains ours and our freedoms remain intact.