Every July 4, the New York Times prints the Declaration of Independence on the back page of its first section–both a facsimile of the original and a more readable version. And every year I reread it. Why? Well, I feel I do need to mark, in some way, my gratitude for living in America, and to those exceptional men who risked “Lives, their Fortunes and their sacred Honor” to establish it.
The language is moving and mighty and let’s remember, they were all regular citizens and politicians of their day. As I reflect on our current political discourse, I wonder what Jefferson and Franklin would have to say about it, but I like to think there are suggestions in the document.
In the section where the signers list “the causes which impel them to the separation,” the Declaration complains that the king “has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither.” These men saw emigration as necessary to enrich the new nation.
Or, how about this, a complaint about “cutting off our trade with all parts of the world,”clearly a view that isolationism was regarded as a negative. Or “he has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers,” as in, for example, preventing the nomination and examination of justices to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
And, they declare, very daringly, that “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the the ruler of a free people.” In this presidential election year, the very least we can do to honor those who gave us our country, is to reflect as seriously as they did, on the fitness of the person we choose to hold that office.