Point of view
July 1, 1993
WORDS OF INDEPENDENCE AMERICA'S GUIDING ETHIC
Overton Love Turner II
"Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains." Voltaire.
I am one of those Americans who believe that Independence Day must be
more than fireworks, picnics, and summertime recreation. It must be for
the sake of our precious liberty, a time to reflect upon, those principles
In the Declaration of Independence that have blessed our lives beyond
measure. It is a time to ask, "What is still living in the political
philosophy of the Founding Fathers?"
That document, which they ratified 217 years ago this week, is the greatest
gift ever bestowed upon the human race. It is a true love letter to the
world. In beautiful prose and artistic rhetoric, it proposed a social
shift for the benefit of mankind.
In outline it announced to the world: (l) that the cosmos and Homo sapiens
are ruled by natural law; (2) that all persons have a claim on the inviolable
rights to life, freedom and the pursuit of self-determination; (3) that
governments exist only to protect these rights; and (4) that all just
governments are accountable to the governed.
While the 18th-century style and language may seem quaint to the modern
ear, the truths are eternal and as true today as when they were penned
by Thomas Jefferson. Every American should know them by heart. They are
The document ratified by the Second Continental Congress, and which we
read today, is not the original draft of Thomas Jefferson. The original
draft was debated by the representatives and changed several times, to
the dismay of Jefferson.
The original draft bears repeating, Jefferson wrote:
"We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are
created equal and independent; that from that equal creation they derive
rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life,
and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends,
governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish
it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles
and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely
to effect their safety and happiness."
I think that perhaps the rhetoric was somewhat improved by the Congress.
That is mainly a matter of personal taste. What is important is that we
who love liberty must understand these principles and live them for the
sake of future generations. We must teach them to our children, that they
too can enjoy the fruits of liberty. And the good way to do this is to
gather the children and get the book out. It must be deliberate.
Neither Hollywood, Nashville, the Super Dome, nor General Motors will
deliver us from the despotism of the powerful. Only the principles of
the Declaration of Independence can deliver us from the evils of despotism.
It is so easy to forget who we are. This Independence Day is a good time
to remember. Providence has given us the opportunity to be a guiding star
for the whole world. Read the Founding Fathers again.
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