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.Many people rightly recognize this as a declaration of individual freedom. Since it was written, it was viewed in this light.
However, it is not true that the Declaration of Independence is just a statement of individual liberty. It is also a statement of unity, a call to action of a diverse group of nation-states acting together. Nowhere is this better represented than in the closing line of the Declaration itself:
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.Those who emphasize only the individual liberty aspect of the Declaration miss the point of it and of the entire American Revolution. If each individual founding father, or each individual colony, had clung fast to only its own interests, its own economic drivers, there could never have been the sort of unity needed for independence.
How many people today, on either the political left or the political right, are truly willing to pledge their "Lives, Fortunes, and sacred Honor" to protect the unalienable Rights of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
I see a lot Americans with great fortunes who don't seem to give a care about the lives and happiness of others.
Many Americans are not willing to accept a slight inconvenience to their sense of entitlement, suffer even a slight disturbance in their happiness, in order to defend the rights of another.
On this Independence Day, I will be teaching my son that individual liberty is tied together with our responsibility to help others, especially those who are less fortunate than us.
As Benjamin Franklin said at the signing of the Declaration of Independence:
We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.Sources and Related Information:
- 5 Patriotic Videos for Independence Day
- National Archives - Declaration of Independence transcript
- Princeton University - The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - Jefferson's "original rough draft" of the Declaration of Independence