Tooele Countians will join citizens across the nation Thursday to celebrate the 243rd birthday of the United States of America. As reported on today’s front page, Tooele and Grantsville cities have a full schedule of events for Independence Day. Other local communities have similar celebrations planned as well.
With all the revelry, it’s easy to forget what actually happened on July 4, 1776, when the greatest democratic nation to ever exist on Earth was born. It’s also easy to forget what historians believe fueled the 56 delegates to the second Continental Congress to pursue independence: King George III ordering his royal army and navy to be enlarged, and the publishing of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” Paine’s words alerted the colonists of their rights, the need to break from England — and to be willing to fight for both.
Paine may have also inspired one of the most courageous written works ever done by man — The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson, who became our nation’s third president, organized the Louisiana Purchase and authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was the document’s original author.
He is credited with writing The Declaration of Independence’s first draft in June 1776, which featured these immortal words that have left an indelible mark in the heart of humanity: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston helped Jefferson with revisions. Their efforts created a remarkable and brilliant document that fearlessly declared the 13 colonies had cut their allegiance to the British Crown. It also declared that, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
With King George III’s crown and rule believed at the time to be ordained by God, such words were both heretical and treasonable. The authors and delegates knew their act of rebellion would land them on the king’s most wanted list. Death would likely be their fate if ever captured.
All of which makes the Declaration of Independence one of our nation’s most precious, living documents. It provided a moral compass for a founding nation, and President Abraham Lincoln, one of our country’s most beloved and respected presidents, reportedly said it heavily influenced his political philosophy and insisted its use to interpret the U.S. Constitution.
Historians have broken down the declaration into five parts: the Introduction, the Preamble, the Indictment of King George III, the Denunciation of the British People, and the Conclusion, which states:
“…With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
The full text of the Declaration of Independence is printed in this paper. Take a moment to read it and feel its passion and purpose that led to the creation of these United States. And Happy 243rd Birthday, America!