1300 words that shook the world

Posted on July 4, 2010

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It was the ultimate act of defiance of its time, a statement to a presumably divinely-appointed monarch from his supposed subjects that they had decided to reject his authority. The world had seen rebellions against monarchy before, but usually on the basis of rival claims to the throne, or on religious principles more than political.

On July 4th, 1776, Great Britain’s colonies united not to depose a king but to declare him irrelevant to their land, and to make the clearest declaration in history of the right of a people to self-governance. It not only argued that the abuses declared in the document gave the 13 colonies the right to cut ties to their mother country and its monarch, but also made an argument against all monarchies and dictatorships in its explicit reliance on the natural rights of all people for freedom. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence made the point almost immediately that the entire notion of divine appointment to hereditary rule had no basis, as all men are created equal. And not just monarchs either, but also tyrants, despots, and those who put any class of people above another without the consent of the governed.

While many of the founders of the new nation that affixed their names to this document failed to consistently live up to that ideal, they lit a flame that burns to this day — and that still makes tyrants quake with the implication of these 1300 words from the 13 colonies.

Happy birthday, America. May these words continue to ring in all the corners of the world with the same force.

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

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