On this day, recommit yourself to the cause of liberty
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The editorial below was originally written by me and published on this day last year. I sat down on Wednesday to write out this year’s Independence Day thought. I found myself lacking in the face of this piece. I’ve decided to republish it as is, with only the slightest of modifications. The day we celebrate today should be a moment cherished in each of our hearts. I hope and pray that the history and meaning of this day, along with all the sacrifices made toward guaranteeing its promises over the past centuries, are never lost, forsaken or forgotten.
— With Pride, Matt Comer, July 4, 2013
Today, millions of Americans at home and abroad will gather in celebration with families and friends. We will watch fireworks shows. We will listen to local bands, symphonies and orchestras play patriotic tunes and our national anthem. We will gather for food and fun in our backyards, public parks, town squares, city halls, state capitols and the National Mall. Moments of silence will be shared. Burgers, hot dogs and beers served.
In the midst of the revelry, silently hiding behind the veil of the ultimate American summer holiday, history is present. On this day, 237 years ago, our forebears pledged to each other their lives, fortunes and honor as thirteen fledgling colonies stood up in proud defiance of the world’s greatest power and said that we “are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”
The single-most defining moment in the history of our young nation and its people is celebrated today. The document which forever changed our collective destiny, and, indeed, the destiny of the entire world, is remembered on this, our nation’s birthday. Though comforting, this day is about more than fireworks, food and fun. Independence Day is about revolution — a consciously-chosen movement toward a Great Experiment for all humankind. More than two centuries later, we are still experimenting.
We face many obstacles, but challenge has never stood in the way of American fortitude. Time and time again we have risen to face our challenges, defeat them and extend the promise forever enshrined at our birth to more and more people.
For LGBT Americans and all others who continue to face racial, economic, religious or violent oppression, we are reminded today that tyranny and despotism have no place in a free society governed by a free people. We are assured that freedom is not a privilege — that, as time permits, all people might come to enjoy the universal respect and dignity guaranteed as a natural birthright to any living, breathing soul.
Today, I urge you to take a moment from the celebration to remember our history and to recommit yourself to those eternal words which propelled our forefathers’ seemingly impossible dream into a reality. Freedom is not free. Words, by themselves, will not guarantee it. Freedom requires honor, sacrifice, wisdom and engagement. Today, your one civic duty is simple: Take a moment to remind yourself of our nation’s promise, read our founding document and say together with our founders, “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.”
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
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.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. 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.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Robert Treat Paine
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Ruchard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
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About the author: Matt Comer was the editor of QNotes, first hired to serve in the role in October 2007, with his tenure ending August 23, 2015.