I think it is good to reflect on July the 4th as more than just fireworks, hot dogs, and ice cream. All of these are great, and they are better when enjoyed with family and friends, but we should not forget the real reason for our celebration. With this in mind, I'd like to take a look at our founding document.
In 1776 the Founders of this country faced a crisis. The actual shooting with the British had begun at Lexington and Concord in the colony of Massachusetts. The other colonies, separate as they were, felt a mutual threat and a kinship to these New England colonists. The Second Continental Congress formed an army under the leadership of General George Washington. Now they had another choice to make. Would they take the final step? The answer, of course, is yes, and the reason they did is because they believed themselves to be part of a larger cause, the cause of freedom.
In 1775, the colonists had reached out to King George III with the Olive Branch Petition, but he considered them rebels who needed to acquiesce to his demands, immediately and without question. Early in 1776, Thomas Paine had called for American independence in a pamphlet entitled Common Sense. So, the Second Continental Congress found themselves at the fork in the road, rejected by the king and considering independence. They choose the path of independence, and explain their choice, they drafted and approved the Declaration of Independence. Let's look at some of the words of this founding statement:
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. (http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/bdsdcc:@field(DOCID+@lit(bdsdcc02101)
These are the first two paragraphs of the document which give the philosophical justification for independence. Take special notice, if you will, of the bold text. Between the phrase "the Pursuit of Happiness" and "That to Secure these Rights" there is a dash. This was included in the original for a reason; to make readers take pause. Why pause? To make us consider the purpose of government. The Founders wanted us to always consider that we have inherent rights, not granted by government, but rather as a birthright and that government should protect these rights.
This reference of the Founders is based on principles of natural law: the belief that the universe has an order and certain principles of right and wrong exist. Among these principles is the belief that government is necessity while liberty and freedom are natural birthrights. Because there are constant threats of losing liberty and freedom, governments are constructed in human society to preserve as much of our natural rights as possible. On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence to document their beliefs. On July 4, John Hancock signed it, and other members of Congress followed suit ending the signing process on August 2.
So it was that we became a nation. The Founders argued that a higher order of the universe granted individual liberty, and no one, not even a king, had the right to take away certain rights. In fact, government should be constituted to preserve freedom, not shackle it. With this foundation of freedom, we became a nation.
I ask that this 4th of July you pause for a few minutes to consider why you have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Also, I believe it would be good to reflect on this periodically throughout the next year. Have a great 4th of July!
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.