July 4th, 2008

A Declaration of Independence… From What?

photo credit: Mrs. Maze

It has become common in our country to wish others a “Happy fourth of July” on and around this historic day. This salutation obfuscates the importance of the day, thus equating it with any random “Happy seventeenth of February” or something similar. No longer do the majority of people say “Happy Independence Day”. Imagine wishing others a merry Christmas by instead shouting “Happy twenty-fifth of December!” Yeah, didn’t think so.

We as a people have become part of what Gore Vidal once called the “United States of Amnesia”. This is perhaps best seen on Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment, where he stops random people on the street to ask them simple questions. Viewers are flabbergasted to see so many people not know who the Vice President is, what the nation’s capital is, or what the entire pledge of allegiance says. Similarly, I would predict that the majority of Americans do not understand the historical importance of the day we today celebrate, nor the major events which took place on and around the day 232 years ago.

Yes, we declared independence from King George’s England. But why? The shackles of oppressive government were overthrown for events, taxes, and policies that in many cases were far less burdensome than ones we have today.

And who declared independence? Not a centralized national government, but a federation of independent, sovereign states. Thus we see in our founding documents the united (lowercase) States being referred to plurally, thus recognizing the self-governance of several united bodies of government.

The bold and heroic action by the signers of this declaration—a peaceful protest of government—led to the defensive Revolutionary War, culminating in the birth of our country, founded upon a written, inspired, and priceless Constitution. But on this day we don’t celebrate the war, our victory, the Constitution, or any other subsequent event in American history—we celebrate the courageous proclamation of liberty manifested in the words of the Declaration of Independence.

Such celebrations ideally serve to help us remember important events and people. But in a day of fireworks, flag waving, parades and barbecues, I fear that few Americans take the time to read, understand, or ponder the importance of the Declaration. This amazing document speaks volumes regarding the principle of individual liberty, and its continual application in our current affairs will collectively guide us in the right direction. Failing to so apply it will lead to widespread ignorance and abandonment of the principles that once made our nation great.

If Jay Leno stopped you on the street and asked you how many people signed the Declaration, would you know? If asked to repeat a line or two, could you? Or if you were asked how this document is relevant to our day, what would you say?

Our survival and prosperity as individuals and as a nation depends in large measure upon how faithful we are to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration and secured by the Constitution. Understanding what policies and practices the founders declared independence from is crucial to knowing how we are to become and remain independent in our own day.

13 Responses to “A Declaration of Independence… From What?”

  1. David
    July 4, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    Nicely said Connor. I’m going to make it a point to teach my kids to celebrate “Independence Day” rather than “the Fourth of July.”

  2. Mom
    July 4, 2008 at 7:44 pm #

    And I’d remind them that the Declaration was actually signed on July 3 (snicker, snicker . . . .:)

  3. Kevin Henderson
    July 5, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    It actually wasn’t signed on the 3rd. It was voted for on July 2nd (which John Adams predicted would be a major American Holiday for years to come). The 4th was the day the wording was officially approved and sent to the printer (2 whole days were spent cutting and editing – almost a fourth of Jefferson’s original wording was removed). The vast majority of Congress then signed on August 2nd, but the signing wasn’t complete actually until into the next year, 1777; the date, however, I do not know.

    I agree whole-heartedly with the post Connor. Great thing to remember. If only our schools still taught “history” instead of dates, huh?

  4. Janet
    July 5, 2008 at 9:27 pm #

    Great post Connor!

  5. Carissa
    July 6, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    Great thoughts. It’s so easy to fall into celebrating the recreational aspect of any holiday without giving much thought as to why it became a holiday in the first place. And this one is so much more important than say, Valentines Day or St. Patrick’s Day- even though it doesn’t often get treated any different (just another fun day). I’m going to try to start calling it Independence Day instead too.

  6. James
    July 7, 2008 at 1:10 pm #

    funny, I had this discussion with my wife on Saturday morning… very true.

  7. Josh Williams
    July 7, 2008 at 5:39 pm #

    All this talk of the Declaration of Independence makes me think about how much of a hypocrite Jefferson was……*sigh*

  8. Sean
    July 7, 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    I like the idea of saying “Independence Day” instead of just “Fourth of July”. It adds meaning rather than just marking a point in time.

    Also, I read this article today, which expands on one of the ideas in your post: the Founders threw off the shackles of English rule. Relative to our tax and regulatory burden today, those shackles don’t look so bad.

  9. Carissa
    July 7, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    I loved that article, thanks for sharing it.

    “the real significance of the Fourth of July lies in the expression of what is undoubtedly the most revolutionary political declaration in history: that man’s rights are inherent, God-given, and natural and, thus, do not come from government.”

    Oh how we all need to remember this every day of the year.

  10. Helaman
    July 9, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Great minds think alike!

    I made a pretty similar post on my blog about the 4th too.

    We had a pretty neat time with Cache Valley Homeschoolers who put on a play about the Declaration of Independance, and my family has come up with a curriculum to study the Constitution, Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence more this coming year.

    We as LDS have not a obligation, but a duty to be more familiar with those documents. It will us who will be called upon to bear it up, and as Clousen asks “Are you ready?”

  11. Carissa
    July 9, 2008 at 8:29 pm #

    Helaman, are you a homeschooler in Cache Valley?

  12. Helaman
    July 9, 2008 at 9:28 pm #

    That we are!

    Are you?

  13. Connor
    July 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    This video illustrates the idea behind this post:

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