“For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”
So wrote Thomas Jefferson, in what turned out to be the last words he set to paper, in a June 24, 1826, letter to Washington, D.C., Mayor Roger Weightman.
In all of our years of academia and experience the notion of how revered the Declaration of Independence actually is and should be – one only need to look at those who had the greatest influence on the document itself.
Earlier this morning I was of course was reading the Declaration of Independence, which in view of what the world is experiencing each day is still one of our favorite all time documents.
Please allow your minds to simply reflect on these words; Over 100,000 citizens of Syria are dead, or maybe Egypt through civil protest ushers in a new government. Not wanting ever to leave anyone or anything out, what do we all think when we hear The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) carrying on business with which they have never been chartered? And in the latest news much, so much more dishonesty and sordid gain with respect to the unraveling of Obamacare.
It is frightening to me knowing that there are people today, in our own country that would rather see legacies abound, trying to seek asylum in other far more oppressive nations than the one he originally left. But most of all, knowing that the Declaration of Independence is a document that we Americans rightly believe that the purpose of government is to protect our private rights, our rights to our property, and to our conscience, and the liberty to speak and worship as we please.
Let there be time for all of us to continue our learning with experience. With the War for Independence over a year old, the Continental Congress appointed a Committee of Five – Thomas Jefferson (33 yrs.), John Adams (40 yrs.), with arguably one of the best and brightest of our Founders, Alexander Hamilton (20 yrs. in 1775) and along with the senior statesman Benjamin Franklin – were given the task of drafting the document declaring the causes which impel (the American Colonies) to the separation.
Thomas Jefferson the principal writer was complete in seventeen days; so where does a person come up with such style as this:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for the 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, “The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America.”
We of course wonder incessantly as to whether or not younger Americans today could or would in fact have the where with all to stand up to our current government. The Founders were young. That does not mean they were not respectful of the wisdom of the ages. “Experience must be our only guide,” John Dickinson instructed his fellow delegates to the Continental Congress.
Experience, after all, teaches the price of weakness abroad and of bloated government at home. Experience also provides guidance for remedying these problems.
But temperate experience will not be enough to remedy our mess. We have never been so weak while facing such dangerous circumstances everywhere. We have never incurred the amount of debt except when engaged in a world war. We have never had to fix and/or replace a program like Obamacare. We have never had to deal with the near-dissolution of the family among sectors of our society. We have rarely had elites so out of touch with middle America and, in some ways, with reality.
Just remembering the lessons and experiences of our Founders gives us the courage to do what we all may have to do.