Tomorrow is the official anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, written mostly by Thomas Jeffferson. Many of the sentiments declared in the document come from earlier writers such as Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire and others. Most of the signers of the Declaration were schooled in these writers and they all understood their meaning.
When we cloud political issues these days by asking what our forefathers meant by their words in the Declaration and later the Constitution, we gloss over the true meaning of what these men did.
At a time when most of the colonists (over two thirds) did not want to irritate the British, or most certainly did not want to separate from the mother country, these men put their lives on the line. Let us be clear. The signers of the Declaration of Independence signed their own death warrants when they put their names on that document. Their beliefs overrode their fear of death.
Most of the 56signers died in poverty and made no profit from their actions. They were not a secret cabal like Tri Lateral Commission (purportedly) creating a world in which they would gain power and become fabulously wealthy. They were really concerned about the freedom of a people from an oppressor.
The idea of celebrating with firecrackers and picnics overshadows these events in our history. As we lament our war in Afghanistan and Iraq so far away, consider a war on our own soil that lasted from 1775 to 1783 and pretty much leveled a great deal of the country. Eleven of the signers died as a result of the battle, as did others from torture as traitors. Some were ripped from their homes as their families fled and were killed.
They gave us the rights that we have today- unalienable (earlier drafts had inalienable) rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which we now take for granted two hundred and thirty five years later.
What is often forgotten, is that we were the first and the model for later revolutions in many other countries and continents- France, Central America, South America, Russia ( the first revolution, not the Communist takeover),and many of the African countries.
The words of the Declaration are written and displayed across the globe in tribute to those fifty six men who gathered together in 1776 to begin a new country and a new way of living.