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July 02, 2013 7:17 am

EDITORIAL: Declaration of Independence still rings true

Written by Tom Lawrence

It’s time to celebrate America, and we can’t offer any guidance on how to do so any better than John Adams.

Adams, a Massachusetts delegate, was one of five men appointed by the Continental Congress to draft what became the Declaration of Independence.

The future first vice president and second president of the United States joined with Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, who would go to serve as Adams’ vice president and become the third president, the legendary Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut to craft the declaration.

Jefferson wrote most of words that ring out so loudly still, 237 years after they were first released to the public. Some of them are so powerful, millions of people can recite them from memory:

“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.”

The Declaration of Independence’s publication was a truly great moment in world history, a time when a people stood up to an unresponsive government and announced they were shedding their shackles, and would seek to live as a free nation. It’s only 1,337 words, and well worth a read this week.

Of course, it was not without its flaws. An early draft included a call to eliminate slavery. That was edited out in a political decision, planting the seeds for decades of pain and evil that led to a bloody civil war and ongoing suffering and oppression.

The American Experiment, as our nation has been so correctly dubbed, had to evolve over time, eventually allowing more rights and freedoms to all citizens. We are witnessing that yet today.

While we could list the errors and point out the missteps, we must salute the Founding Fathers for their wisdom, courage and foresight. That is why, more than two centuries later, we celebrate this document and principles it espouses.

Adams offered advice on the proper way to celebrate America’s freedom in a letter he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. Like other delegates, he wasn’t sure when the Declaration of Independence would be released, but the date is not that important. It’s the Spirit of ’76 we continue to honor.

Here are his exact words — and spelling — from that letter:

“The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.”

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