Two Universal Ideals from the Declaration of Independence

Two Universal Ideals from the Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independenceby Erin Weist

I have recently been studying about the time of the American Revolution, the founding of the United States, the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the glorious creation of the United States Constitution.  I’m sure there are similar fascinating and eye-opening principles behind the creation of countries all over the world, but this particular event and ideals that sprang from it have affected others on a global scale unprecedented in recent history.  I want to talk about two of those ideals.

First, that “all men are created equal.”  The reason for promoting this ideal stemmed from a belief existing for centuries, millennia even, that kings (and, to an extent, nobles) were created to rule over others.  Commoners all over the world were relegated to obeying laws with which they had no say.  No man, woman or child could generally rise above the station in which they were born and also were not permitted to associate with those of higher classes.  The revolutionary idea that people were created equal led to the “American dream,” a dream that brought thousands upon thousands of immigrants to its shores in hopes of making a better life.  This dream, this founding principle said that individuals could increase their station through their own force of sheer will– not because the American government would provide it for them, but that a land was provided where they could work and earn what they were willing to earn, and thereby improve their own situation.

Today this ideal has shifted in the public image, to say that all values are created equal, all lifestyles, all choices.  This image of equality is a far cry from what was promoted by the writers of the Declaration of Independence, who linked this idea with “the consent of the governed,” and “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”  Each person now living in this land were declared to have certain rights, given to them by God, which none could take away: the ability to live; the ability to pursue their education, training, and work in any chosen field; their ability to be free without a tyrannical government imposing unjust, arbitrary laws upon them that were designed more to fill its coffers and expand its own power than to serve justice.

Second, an encompassing message of the colonists desire for independence sprang from sincere religious beliefs, not from any one denomination, but Christian in nature.  This desire to live without governmental oppression came in this form: “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  These Rights were declared in rebuke of a tyrannical monarchy who had been plundering their coasts, inciting insurrection, imposing taxes without consent, and dissolving their representation (among many other things– See Declaration of Independence.)  The colonists invoked natural freedom from this oppression as universal, coming from a Supreme Being who created all mankind.  Indeed, the name of deity is invoked several times in this document: “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” “endowed by their Creator,” “Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world,” and “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”  

These men prayed fervently, in public meetings, for their God to unite them, to guide them in this Herculean endeavor, to help them create a truly free land…and those prayers were answered.  No one reading the history of these people can contest the sheer magnitude of the work they undertook.  No one can likewise contest the miraculous documents and institutions they created as a result.  American Independence started a course that changed the world, changed the way people around the globe saw their status.  And the Founding Fathers ascribed that change to the willpower of determined men and the miraculous involvement of a Divine Hand.

Succinctly stated, from President George Washington’s first inaugural address: ”No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”  The American nation, and nations around the world today, would do well to remember these things.

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