Of course, this is the same day that this group of men issued the Declaration of Independence. The day before; on July 3, 1776: John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail Adams,
“Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting Colony, ‘that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States….’ You will see, in a few days, a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man.”Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an observer to the Continental Congress?
This room, in Philadelphia, was full of men with a vision for a nation. After repeated attempts to reconcile with the British King and Parliament; they, collectively, chose independence for the Colonies. They declared the 13 Colonies to be Free and Independent States.
The enormity of the decision was recognized by those men who had labored over the decision and the wording for the Declaration of Independence (DOI). They were under no illusion that Britain would accept the loss of rule over the Colonies without a war. The last sentence in the Declaration reveals the commitment each accepted:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."Then 56 delegates signed their names to the document.
They felt it necessary to explain to Britain and the world, the reasons for such a decision. The first sentence introduced all readers, foreign and domestic, to one of the most powerful documents ever written by man:
"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."Following the first sentence of the DOI, is the preamble; which is also referred to as the "right of revolution":
"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."Some have argued that the "right of revolution" implies that it must fall within the "rights" in existing laws. As this would not allow for a positive outcome against the grievances resulting from the acts of a government, it has been taken further to state that it is not only the right of the people to overthrow tyranny and despotism, but it is the duty of the people to do so.
What happens when a group of people decide that it is time to dissolve political bands with the government which, up until that point, has been their government? What brings those people to that point? In other words, what is the cause and effect?
Our young country already has two examples of this very situation: the American Revolution with the War of Independence and the War of Secession between the States. In both cases, the party doing the dissolving believed that the government was infringing upon their rights and had done so to such an extent that it was no longer tolerable. As stated in the DOI, "...that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves..." We will tolerate abuse up to a breaking (dissolving) point. The effect of a dissolution of this magnitude is typically war. That, along with the rights being trampled, are the two common aspects of these two examples.
"Free and independent States" - Are we still free and are the States still independent? From the beginning of the United States of America, there has been an erosion of liberty and independence. Instead of the People being sovereign over the government, the Government now rules the citizens. Instead of the States exercising broad and innumerable powers and the Federal Government being restricted and limited in the powers granted to them by the People, we now have the States subject to the Federal Government and Washington dictating to the States what they are allowed to do.
How did this happen and why have we not stopped the trampling of our rights by our own Government which is supposed to be subject to us and the Constitution? There are multiple answers. First is the statement quoted above, "...more disposed to suffer..." We are basically a peace loving people and want government to just do its job and leave us alone to pursue happiness. Second, too many in our country do not realize or understand how our rights have been restricted, often with our own blessing. Many are ignorant of the unalienable rights they possess and are willing for government to infringe upon those rights and destroy the boundary which was designed to limit government. And third, a large portion of our population has been bought. They are on the dole of the Government. They either work directly or indirectly for the government or are on the receiving end of some benefit bestowed by Washington. They have become "single-issue" voters and protest against any move by any person or party to withdraw the hand that is feeding them.
"They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
Will there be a breaking point or a time of dissolution for the American People? Or, will we remain "disposed to suffer" right into slavery?