We Still Hold These Truths
By Amanda J. Reinecker, Heritage Foundation, July 2, 2010
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress declared to the world America’s independence from the British crown. They stated with great conviction that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” The rights are natural and are not the creation of any man, monarch, or government.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence proposed a new theory of government: that the authority of the government should arise from the people and should depend on “the consent of the governed.” This model of self-government was a pioneering experiment. Many expected the Founders to fail.
But two hundred and thirty-four years later, we still hold these truths to be true.
The Declaration of Independence is one the greatest statements of human liberty ever written. Its bold statements and timeless truths reveal to men of all ages that “they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood and flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration,” proclaimed Abraham Lincoln. “And so they are.” After all, they’re our Founding Fathers.
The Founders recognized that governments depend on imperfect men, and they worried about the threat of an all-powerful central government, where the few dictate to the many. In 1787, as the Constitutional Convention completed its work to enshrine the principles of the Declaration into law, Ben Franklin famously said the Constitution established “a republic, if you can keep it”.
In an address before the Naples Committee for Heritage, Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding recounted a story from the Revolution. It was the story of a man who fought in the battle of Concord. His name was Levi Preston. Many years later, Capt. Levi Preston was asked by a young historian why he had fought in the American Revolution. Was it the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, perhaps the treatises of John Locke? But Capt. Preston explained that he didn’t use stamps. He didn’t drink tea. And he never read Locke.
“Then why?” The interviewer asked. “It’s very simple,” Capt. Preston responded. “What we meant in going for those Redcoats was this: we always had been free, and we meant to be always free. They didn’t mean we should.”
The fight to remain free continues today. Today’s progressives are enacting policies that expand government and limit our freedoms. Heritage President Ed Feulner explains that Americans face a new set of “Intolerable acts” – Wall Street bailouts; “stimulus” packages; cap-and-trade legislation; and, perhaps most harmful of all, Obamacare.
But the Founders warned us of this ongoing threat to liberty: Thomas Paine once warned that “the greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.”
America’s greatest defense is our commitment to the principles of our Founding. We must take pride in our heritage and echo the words of Capt. Preston, “We have always been free. And we always intend to be free.” And we must do so with the same conviction, tenacity, and foresightedness as those individuals who, on that glorious day in July of 1776, brought to life the United States of America.