Happy Independence day. The 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. An important document for a number of reasons. It was, of course, a declaration of war. Or more accurately an acknowledgment and justification of the state of rebellion that existed. But it was more than just a declaration of war. It was a brief explanation of why we have government, what the purpose of government is, why the then current government was unacceptable, and what should be done.
Right off the bat, it states that governments are created (instituted is the term they use) by mankind. They are an invention of man, not a gift from the creator. They were created for a purpose -- protection of rights. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness among other rights. And they expressed the radical idea that these fundamental rights were an integral part of being human by the act of creation, not something that could be granted or taken away on a whim. In the end, governments are only legitimate if they protect fundamental rights with the consent of the governed. From there, they declare that when a government is destructive of this end, the governed have the right to change the government or to start over with a new one that meets these requirements.
Then they submitted a list of then current problems as they saw them. To put just a few of them in more modern terms, the King and parliament removed many functions from local control. They created an unbearable amount of bureaucracy. They stationed an armed force that was above the law among us.They protected this armed force with mock trials. They imposed taxes without consent. They deprived us of the right of trial by jury. And the list goes on.
This declaration not only justified the war for independence, it supplied a vision of what a government should look like after the war. We won the war and started to build on that vision. Got off to a rocky start with the Articles of Confederation. Major progress with the Constitution in 1789 but there were still rough edges like slavery. Civil war brought about major changes to the character of our government. Some good, some bad. There have been many additional changes brought on by the work of activists, courts, the results of war, etc. that keep redefining our government. On the one hand, we are still a great country that has made remarkable progress towards that historic vision of better life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. More equal protection regardless of race, color, creed, sex, gender, religion or national origin. On the other hand, some of the grievances on that historic document are with us today and need to be dealt with. The vision was declared in 1776 but the work is not done. There is still a lot of clean up, heavy lifting, and fine tuning needed today.