In what is now called Independence Hall a group of men gathered to discuss a momentous decision. This was not a normal gathering of politicians, but included the greatest minds on the continent, many of whom had reputations that carried the world over. There mood was solemn, no gaiety here. Most of these men were engaged in debates over issues that would soon shake the world, others lost in the silence of deep contemplation, all knew the gravity of what they were there to do.
The Continental Congress of the then united colonies had decided on a course of action that was certain to bring much blood shed and even put their own lives in peril. As one of the participants said, they must all hang together or most certainly they shall all hang separately. When they finally put their names down on the document they had crafted, it made official what had til then been only talk. The Declaration of Independence they had agreed upon was revolutionary in that it put forth officially, for the first time, on what basis the rights of mankind rested.
No king or even pope could rightfully impinge on the basic rights of man, for these rights arise in nature and from nature’s God. They were as connected to life as breathing and as essential to the soul of man as food is to his body. For anyone to breech these God given rights was to break the laws of Nature, and could not be tolerated by a free people. In declaring themselves free, the signatories of the Declaration of Independence were in essence declaring freedom to all of mankind. A document for the ages, a beacon to those in bondage, and a condemnation of those who hold them there.
It is fitting today to quote from this documents preamble, to state again those principals upon which a nation was founded, and tyrants the world over were put on notice.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
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.
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.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Such was the opening lines of the most important document in the history of mankind. Not since the Magna Carta had a people held a King to such an account for his misdeeds, but even it paled in comparison to this. Indeed, in all of history no one had come close to making such a declaration of freedom with such a clear cut understanding of the rights inherent in being a member of the family of man.
In times such as these, on a day such as this, it is paramount that this document be lifted up to the world once again. That its self-evident truths be put forth to those in bondage and used to condemn their tormentors. The basic truth that all men are equal before God, and the law and they have rights no one can deny, should not be forgotten. The rise of tyranny, the usurpation of rights, the increasing acts of despotism that meet mankind at every turn need to be answered. No Rights of Man based in the fallacy they are of governmental origin can suffice. No new kings wrapped in the rags of social justice, or self-declared arbiters of what is right, can replace the truths written on parchment some two hundred, two score and one year ago today.
It is time, not for a new Declaration of Independence, but a re-establishment of the old. To, as another founding document said, secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, we must stand against the preset tide and call forth the spirit of Independence Hall once again. .
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