Editorial: Celebrating our independence
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
Today we celebrate America’s independence with cookouts, fireworks displays and a day off from work.
But amid our celebrations with family and friends, it’s worthwhile to reflect upon the meaning of the day and the words of promise in the Declaration of Independence, which was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
The 13 American colonies had already been at war with Great Britain for more than a year when Congress voted on July 2, 1776, to declare independence. Two days later, on July 4, Congress adopted the official Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson with amendments by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. It was signed that day by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, ultimately giving rise to the birth of a nation and the Independence Day holiday we celebrate today.
The vast majority of the text of The Declaration of Independence is devoted to listing the grievances against King George III. He had taxed the colonies without their consent, dissolved their governing bodies, plundered their ships, placed unwanted British troops among them and blocked immigration and trade beneficial to the colonies, Jefferson wrote. In all, there were more than 25 grievances listed in the Declaration, and no doubt they were important in rallying public support for the independence movement.
But while the grievances made a strong case for independence, it is the first sentence of the second paragraph for which the Declaration of Independence is best known: “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.”
With those words, the Declaration of Independence established the foundation upon which the world’s greatest democracy — a beacon of freedom and hope for all — was built.
It’s unlikely the men who gathered in Philadelphia that summer could have anticipated what the nation they were creating would become. They were simply standing for what they believed to be right: independence, freedom and the equality of human beings. Some 242 years later, their work stands the test of time and is worthy of saluting today, Independence Day.