When the American colonies finally agreed to separate from England in order to establish a country where liberty was the law of the land, it was a turning point for liberty in the world. The American Founders declared their reasons for the separation in the Declaration of Independence.
July 4th, 1776 was the day that the Declaration was officially adopted by Congress.
From The Charters of Freedom – Declaration of Independence: A History: “Jefferson’s account reflects three stages in the life of the Declaration: the document originally written by Jefferson; the changes to that document made by Franklin and Adams, resulting in the version that was submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress; and the version that was eventually adopted.
“On July 1, 1776, Congress reconvened. The following day, the Lee Resolution for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Immediately afterward, the Congress began to consider the Declaration. Adams and Franklin had made only a few changes before the committee submitted the document. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late morning of July 4. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.”
This should be a precious document to anyone who knows the crucial value of living by his or her own honest intelligence, free from those who would impose their own beliefs and will through coercion. Liberty enables the honest and the intelligent to go their own way (as well as the dishonest and stupid to go theirs, as long as they don’t use force or fraud to gain their ends), and to thus live with self-respect and to pursue happiness according to their own judgment and conscience. The result is an outpouring of intellectual, scientific, and material discovery and invention, a contentious but productive marketplace of ideas and goods.
When all agree on the principles of liberty, the widest variety of views can live in physical peace with each other (although the field of argument can become verbally heated and even ugly), and live by their own judgment and conscience. It is when someone’s conscience includes the view that he must enforce his own particular ideology or religion on his ideological opponents that the protective wall of liberty is broken and a society of free people needs to rally against that breach. Continue reading