“God who gave us life gave us Liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” —Thomas Jefferson (1781)
The Declaration of Independence, which codified American Liberty, is most significant and consequential affirmation of freedom and the irrevocable Rights of Man in the history of the world.
On this day in our history, the Second Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subjects of the British monarch, King George III.
More than a year after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at the April 19th, 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord, Second Continental Congress delegates gathered in Philadelphia.
On July 2nd, after much deliberation, the delegates voted to approve Virginia delegates Richard Henry Lee’s resolution for independence, with John Adams approving that motion Resolved: “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.”
A Committee of Five with 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson as its principal author, and Adams and Ben Franklin as its primary reviewers, drafted a statement codifying the the separation from England. On July 4th, after much debate, it was approved.
The Declaration drew its authority from our Creator:
“Laws of Nature and of NATURE’S GOD…” “All Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights…” “Appealing to the SUPREME JUDGE OF THE WORLD for the rectitude of our intentions…” “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.”
This assertion of “created equal” was antithetical to monarchs who viewed their cast above all others.
The Declaration listed 27 reasons why Americans declared their independence from the 38-year-old King George, who ruled the most powerful empire on earth:
“He has made judges dependent on his will alone … He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance. He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies … To subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution … For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us …For imposing taxes on us without our consent … For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of trial by jury … For … establishing … an arbitrary government … For … altering fundamentally the forms of our governments …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 complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny … He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored 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.”
Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration contained a line condemning slavery, as the King of England was part owner of the Royal African Company:
“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself … in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither … suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold.”
However, a few delegates from southern colonies objected to this condemnation, and given that the British were invading New York at the time, and the need to pass a unanimous Declaration, the language on slavery was set aside.
John Hancock, the 39-year-old President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration first, reportedly said, “The price on my head has just doubled.” Next to sign was Secretary, Charles Thomson.
When 54-year-old Samuel Adams signed the Declaration, he said: “We have this day restored THE SOVEREIGN to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
Benjamin Franklin, then 70, insisted, “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”
Broadsides of the completed Declaration of Independence were immediately printed and distributed to the states.
Of the Declaration’s approval, 41-year-old John Adams wrote his wife Abigail:
“[It] will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by SOLEMN ACTS OF DEVOTION TO GOD ALMIGHTY. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more. … You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.”
The Declaration of Independence housed in our National Archives was engrossed on parchment by Timothy Matlack, and most delegates would not sign that document until August 10th, and a few even later. Eventually, 56 delegates would affix their signatures to the Declaration, and for all it was a death warrant.
Amid all the contemporary political and cultural contests, today’s Patriots must never fail to make the case for overarching eternal truths — whether in debate with adversaries across the aisles of Congress, or with neighbors across Main Street. Lost in the din is the foundational endowment of American Liberty, and any debate that does not begin with this eternal truth will end with temporary deceits.
The most oft-cited words from our Declaration of Independence are these: “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.”
The eternal assertion that Liberty for all people is “endowed by their Creator” and is thus “unalienable” should require no defense, because “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” and because the Rights of Man are irrevocable from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
But the root of all debate between Liberty and tyranny — or, in political parlance, between Right and left — is the contest to assert who endows Liberty. It is God, or is it man?
Contemporary leftist protagonists seek to replace Rule of Law with the rule of men. This is because the former is predicated on the principle that Liberty is “endowed by our Creator,” while the latter asserts that government is the giver of Liberty.
The history of man, since its first record, has repeatedly and tragically documented that when the people settle for the assertion that government is the source of their rights, tyranny is the inevitable result. And tyrants always attempt to undermine Liberty by driving a wedge between it and its foundational endowment by our Creator.
For generations, American liberals have driven that wedge by asserting that our Constitution provides a “wall of separation” between church and state. But does it?
The short answer is “yes,” but it is most certainly not the faux wall constructed by judicial activists, who have grossly adulterated the plain language of our First Amendment especially during the last 50 years.
Contrary to what many liberals would have us believe, the words “wall of separation between church and state” do not appear in our Constitution — nor is this notion even implied. Thomas Jefferson penned those words in an obscure 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in response to concerns about Connecticut’s establishment of Congregationalism as their state church. Jefferson assuaged their concerns, telling the Baptists that the First Amendment prohibited the national government from establishing a “national church,” but he concluded rightly that the Constitution prohibited the national government from interfering with the matters of state governments — a “wall of separation,” if you will, between federal and state governments.
The “wall of separation” argument is thus a phony one. Indeed, it is a blueprint for tyranny.
We are created, from the beginning, in the Image of God, and that image is the essence of Liberty, the well of all rights for all people for all time.
Our enlightened Founders, in their revolutionary opposition to tyranny, looked far beyond kings and parliaments to the enduring source of the Rights of Man, and they enumerated in our Declaration of Independence that we are, indeed, formed in the image of our Creator for His purpose, and that no man could strip that endowment from the soul of another. Thus, we have the equal capacity to be free, personal, rational, creative and moral beings, and we are entitled to be so through His endowment.
These rights and freedoms were further enshrined in our Constitution.
In 1776, John Hancock wrote of Jacob Duché, the first Chaplain appointed by the Continental Congress, “Congress … from a consideration of your … zealous attachment to the rights of America, appoint(s) you their Chaplain.” Duché, Pastor of Philadelphia’s Christ Church, captured the spirit of the American Revolution, saying, “Civil liberty is as much the gift of God in Christ Jesus … as our spiritual freedom… ‘Standing fast’ in that liberty, wherewith Christ, as the great providential Governor of the world, hath made us free.”
It is in that spirit that we at The Patriot Post adopted our motto, Veritas vos Liberabit — “The Truth Will Set You Free” (John 8:32). That is the essence of the assertion that we are “endowed by our Creator” with life and Liberty.
Ignorance of the true and eternal source of the Rights of Man is fertile ground for the Left’s assertion that government endows such rights. It is also perilous ground, soaked with the blood of generations of American Patriots. As Jefferson wrote, “The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Indeed, the “Cycle of Democracy” demands this tonic. And despite the pervasive assault on Liberty by the current legions of leftist NeoComs, to paraphrase the great Prussian military historian, theorist and tactician Carl von Clausewitz, “the best defense is a good offense.”
Our Founders closed their Declaration with this pledge to each other, and all who would follow: “With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” Indeed, most of the 56 delegate signers of the Declaration suffered dire consequences in pursuit of that Honor. Of the Signers: 11 had their homes destroyed; 5 were hunted and captured; 17 served in the military; and 9 died during the war.
In his 1800 letter to fellow Declaration signer Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Today, like tens-of-millions of our generation’s American Patriots from all walks of life, I have sworn likewise. We remain steadfast in that commitment and will never forsake our Sacred Honor. No matter what setbacks we face, Liberty is an eternal endowment. Thus, we must hold the lines on defense, and regroup for relentless attack on offense.
In honor of this anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, contemplate these wise words of our Founders, and please consider supporting The Patriot Post‘s mission in defense of Liberty.
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion. To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian.” —George Washington
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” —John Adams
“May every citizen … have a proper sense of the Deity upon his mind and an impression of the declaration recorded in the Bible, 'Him that honoreth Me I will honor, but he that despiseth Me shall be lightly esteemed.’” —Samuel Adams
“This will be the best security for maintaining our liberties. A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the religion of ignorance that tyranny begins.” —Benjamin Franklin
“The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it.” —James Madison
“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among parchments and musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” —Alexander Hamilton
“But where says some is the king of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. … Let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.” —Thomas Paine in Common Sense
By a remarkable coincidence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the only two surviving signatories of the Declaration of Independence who both would later serve as presidents, died just hours apart on July 4th, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration.
On July 4th, 1875, a decade after the War Between the States concluded and a year ahead of our First Centennial, abolitionist Frederick Douglass declared:
“If, however, any man should ask me what colored people have to do with the Fourth of July, my answer is ready. Colored people have had something to do with almost everything of vital importance in this great country … We have been with [the white man] in times of peace and in times of war and at all times. We were with him in the hardest hours of the Revolutions of 1776.”
In 1926, celebrating the Declaration’s 150th anniversary, President Calvin Coolidge said in Philadelphia:
“It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence… It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world.”
British historian and theologian G.K. Chesterton stated in “What is America”: “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on creed. That creed is set forth … in the Declaration of Independence … that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice. It certainly does condemn … atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived.”
Of our Founding, President Ronald Reagan said: “In this country of ours took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world’s history – every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rulers for another. … Here for the first time in all the thousands of years of man’s relation to man … the founding fathers established the idea that you and I had within ourselves the God-given right and ability to determine our own destiny.”
Of our Founders, he said: “From their own harsh experience with intrusive, overbearing government, the Founding Fathers made a great breakthrough in political understanding: They understood that it is the excesses of government, the will to power of one man over another, that has been a principle source of injustice and human suffering through the ages. … The Founding Fathers understood that only by making government the servant, not the master, only by positing sovereignty in the People and not the state can we hope to protect freedom. … In 1776, the source of government excess was the crown’s abuse of power and its attempt to suffocate the colonists with its overbearing demands. In our own day, the danger of too much state power has taken a subtler but no less dangerous form.”
Indeed. But as President Reagan warned: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Fellow Patriots, in closing, for inspiration I encourage you to take a moment to consider the vast greatness of our nation and people. Enjoy watching “My Beautiful America” by fellow Tennessean Charlie Daniels, or if you prefer, read the words. For additional perspective on our inheritance and legacy of Liberty, view “We still hold these truths.”
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On this Independence Day, and every day, join us in prayer for our Patriots in uniform and their families — Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen, who stand in harm’s way in defense of American Liberty — and for our nation’s First Responders.
Stand firm Patriots, and never lose faith!
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate – 1776
NOTE: For an excellent resource on our nation’s founding, read Mark Alexander’s essay on American Liberty. You can also purchase our highly-acclaimed pocket size Patriot Primers on American Liberty in bulk for distribution to students, grassroots organizations, civic clubs, political gatherings, military and public service personnel, professional associations and others. Also visit The Patriot’s Historical Documents pages for additional resources on America’s founding.