The Declaration of Independence and the foundation of America.

The foundation of these United States of America are written down in the Declaration of Independence, but they are also the truths of Nature and of God. The Founding Fathers studied the Bible and philosophers. And as Calvin Coolidge stated, if we deny the truths and soundness, we go backward.

The foundation of the United States of America is deeply rooted in the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. Nearly all forms of early writings include religious tenors; letters, documents, etc.

Although there are Colonial American documents of interest that predate 1776, the Declaration of Independence truly is the First American document. So what does it say exactly?

The very first paragraph states; “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation…” America is telling England that we will separate ourselves from them and we have that right from God. By the Laws of Nature and the God, who makes those laws, we have a desire and a right to forge our own way. In Genesis, we learn that God gave man free will. This is the foundation of Liberty and the nexus of faith and liberty with the American founding.

The second paragraph starts with the most well-known passage; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Right, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…” Once again, God, the Creator, is mentioned. Our rights come from God, the Creator. Not a King, Not a Government. Why is that so important? King George III, like others before him, could and would change laws whenever he wanted. One day there was no tax on tea, the next day there was a tax on your tea. One day you owned your 20 acres, the next day the King wanted it and took it for himself. One day this was legal; the next day it was not legal. But with God as our Sovereign, there is more stability in our lives. We have the right to live freely.  Without freedom what are we?

In a letter to Henry Lee [1]Thomas Jefferson writes,” …. the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take….”  Thomas Jefferson affirms these “truths are self-evident”. They are common sense.

He continues in his letter to say;” … it is intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give that expression proper tone and spirit.” This is the belief of the American people! How profound. The foundation of the American society and values lie in the Declaration of Independence, the first American document.

He continues to his friend Henry Lee, “All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.” Here Thomas Jefferson is confirming these ideas and values as common in the writings of the philosophers. An example is Cicero (106-43 B.C.) speaks of natural law in his writing, On the Commonwealth; “True law is right reason, constant with nature, spread through all peoples. It is constant and eternal; it summons to duty by its order, it deters from crime by its prohibitions….”  In the Second Treatise of Government by John Locke, Locke speaks of freedom within the bounds of nature and equality as “equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection”.

Next in the Declaration, comes the list of grievances against King George III. These include; Lack of Representation, Taxation without consent, obstruction of the administration of justice, he kept standing armies and made then independent and superior to civil power, and so on.

But the Declaration of Independence does not end here. Following the list of grievances to King George III, we find the following; “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…” Here in the closing paragraph, God is once again mentioned as the Supreme Judge of the world!

This document is splendidly written and admired around the world for its craftsmanship, hope, and inspiration.  Calvin Coolidge marked the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration with a speech entitled “The Inspiration of the Declaration” on July 5, 1926. He states, “It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. ….. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event.” He continues further on in the speech with; “It is often asserted that the world has made great progress since 1776, that we have new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wished to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which they can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward a time when there was no equality, no rights of individuals, no rule of the people.”

 

Calvin Coolidge’s entire speech is brilliant. He ends his speech with; “It is a product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which was bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy….”

I implore you to read the entire speech. It is truly compelling. And keep in mind, this was written ninety-one years ago! It is as true today as then.

The foundation of these United States of America are written down in the Declaration of Independence, but they are also the truths of Nature and of God. The Founding Fathers studied the Bible and philosophers. And as Calvin Coolidge stated, if we deny the truths and soundness, we go backward.

[1] Thomas Jefferson, “To Henry Lee,” May 8, 1825 in Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson.