The text of the Declaration Of Independence
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.
Henry Clay at New Majority on Sean Hannity’s reading of the document:
We do believe as a country that all men are created equal, that we were endowed by our creator, that we do have certain unalienable rights, that these are God-given – life, liberty, pursuit of happiness – and that governments often get in the way.
Americans did argue in the Declaration that all men are created equal and that they possess certain God-given inalienable rights.
But the Founders did not then conclude that government threatens these rights.
Rather, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”
Our forefathers justified revolution because the government instituted to secure their rights had failed in its duty and was actively undermining personal liberty. The Founders did not argue that government as such was an impediment to liberty. Quite the contrary, a society without government quickly devolved into a state of war where no rights were secure.
Daniel McCarthy at TAC:
After 230 years the American Revolution and our Founding Fathers have become shopworn things, leached of much of their character, reduced to mannequins to be dressed up in the intellectual fashions of the day. Idealized portrayals of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and the rest still find a mass audience, resisting revisionist pressure. But as objects of reverence, the Founders cease to be what they were-revolutionaries, men who took up arms against their government and spilled blood for their rights.
If alabaster Founders survive at the popular level, clichés of a different sort prevail in academia, where perpetual debunking is the fate suffered by these men-and that they were men is part of the problem. But only part: Washington was rich as well as white and male. And he owned slaves. So did Jefferson, who slept with one of them, too. Because of the gulf between his life and his ideals-that “all men are created equal” stuff-Jefferson has become a particular target of censure. But the others get their share as well.
Not that all scholarly treatments of the Founders fall into that mode. Just as pervasive, and just as off base, are those scholars who find in the Federalist and other papers of the founding generation far-sighted statesmen who anticipated the modern world of competing interest groups and lobbyists scrambling over one another like beetles after the main chance. Political parties and pork-barrel politics are what America has always been about, in this view, right back to the Constitutional Convention.
TNR’s collection of articles on the Founding Fathers
John Holbo recalls Captain America.
Since I’ve been pondering creative rights and copyright extension, I’ll take this patriotic occasion to remind you of that famous scene in Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles in which Cap travels back in time only to have the design for his uniform become the original inspiration for the US flag. Cap is upset. Why should Betsy Ross get credit, after all? A creative continuum conundrum. (via Bully.)
Some are celebrating the 4th by pondering Lincoln:
Scott Johnson at Powerline:
Lincoln invited Douglas’s audience to return the next evening for his reply to Douglas’s speech. Lincoln’s speech of July 10, 1858, is one of his many great speeches, but in one respect it is uniquely great. It concludes with an explanation of the meaning of this day to Americans with matchless eloquence and insight in words that remain as relevant now as then.
“Now, it happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them.
We are now a mighty nation, we are thirty—or about thirty millions of people, and we own and inhabit about one-fifteenth part of the dry land of the whole earth. We run our memory back over the pages of history for about eighty-two years and we discover that we were then a very small people in point of numbers, vastly inferior to what we are now, with a vastly less extent of country,—with vastly less of everything we deem desirable among men,—we look upon the change as exceedingly advantageous to us and to our posterity, and we fix upon something that happened away back, as in some way or other being connected with this rise of prosperity. We find a race of men living in that day whom we claim as our fathers and grandfathers; they were iron men, they fought for the principle that they were contending for; and we understood that by what they then did it has followed that the degree of prosperity that we now enjoy has come to us. We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things. If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration [loud and long continued applause], and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world. [Applause.]
Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of “don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down” [Douglas’s “popular sovereignty” position on the extension of slavery to the territories], for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice—“Hit him again”], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form. Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices—“me” “no one,” &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of “no, no,”] let us stick to it then [cheers], let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]”
Sean Wilentz in TNR at Lincoln
Tyler Cowen gives a list of other events of July 4th.
Dorian De Wind in Moderate Voice:
Hope that henceforth Americans will be able to celebrate every Fourth of July once again with joy, pride and confidence—as the United States of America, as the most respected and blessed nation on earth.
Finally, a very special hope for our brave troops who are still in harm’s way.
You are the same magnificent men and women who served so heroically under the previous administration and who are continuing to serve equally heroically under the present administration.
You are the dedicated men and women who, in Iraq, are helping the new administration implement the terms of the agreements negotiated by the previous administration, and who, in Afghanistan, are continuing the just battle that was thrust upon us on 9/11.
I hope that you’ll accomplish your missions quickly and successfully and that God will bring you safely home.
Six Foot Skinny: “The Fourth In Iraq”
I was there as a spectator, sitting in one of Saddam’s palaces on the 4th of July. While my friends roll out of bed at the lake to have a beer, prepare the fireworks, start the potato salad. While Iraqis struggle with sovereignty. While American Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen struggle with Iraqis struggling with sovereignty. It was surreal, but so much of this experience is surreal that the word starts to become cliché. I was in good company – 237 servicemembers ready to become citizens, General Ray Odierno, and Vice President Joe Biden. Not going to lie, it was pretty cool. A Soldier in my unit, a native of Kenya, was there to be sworn in, and I was there as the unofficial/official unit photographer. I am not a Public Affairs Officer (PAO) or a Combat Camera guy, just a joe with a nice camera that likes to take pictures.
My standing room along with the rest of the crowd was not going to afford me much of a vantage point, so I bided my time and waited for an opening. I snuck past the chains, was approached by the head military press honcho, apparently answered the questions correctly by lying through my teeth (I am a PAO now), and I was in. I struck up casual conversation with a civilian photographer with the usual question: “So, who do you shoot for?” The answer: “The New York Times.” Wow. OK, so I’m in the big time now. I figure I was there to take pictures of my guy, and I was doing what I could to make that happen. All good. I ended up ringside for a truly special Independence Day.