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.
These words from the Declaration of Independence are familiar to most Americans (I hope). They’ll be prominent in the media and during Fourth of July celebrations this week. Some may even read the next few sentences.
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.
But few will read the rest of this paragraph:
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.
This Fourth of July, Americans will not only be celebrating the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, but the 150th anniversary of one of the most devastating and significant battles in American history — Gettysburg.
Even though many will celebrate this as the day America gained our independence, any student of history knows better. It took six long years of bloody fighting, which began a year before 1776, and in which victory was always in doubt, to gain our freedom.
Some believed then, and many believe now, that that struggle for freedom and independence never ends.
Thomas Jefferson observed, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is their natural manure.” When he said that, he was not talking about a professional military force overthrowing a foreign tyrant.
We should remind ourselves of that point every Independence Day and reaffirm that the preferred method of revolution and rebellion is with ballots not bullets.