In Honor of Independence Day
Many Americans today are familiar with the fact that, when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, King George III was still exploiting the British colonists in the New World, causing the thirteen American colonies to break away from British rule and become their own independent nation. Yet, few of these same people can truly explain why the Declaration of Independence was written, published, and widely circulated. In the end, anyone curious to uncover the answers to such questions need not look far. Rather, the Declaration of Independence itself explains precisely its purpose: to reveal to the American people and nations around the world (1) pertinent political beliefs held by the drafters, (2) the abuses that the colonists had suffered under British rule, and (3) the measures that these individuals were forced to take as a result of these beliefs and grievances.
Political Beliefs of the Drafters
The drafters of the Declaration of Independence held two basic beliefs about people in general. First, all people should be considered equal under the established government. Secondly, as equal human beings, all people are born with certain specific rights which their government should never interfere with, including the right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Rather, the established government has the momentous duty of fostering equity among its citizens and of protecting their “unalienable rights.” They viewed these duties of government as so crucial that if the government ever fails to meet the needs of its citizens, the people have the right to make every attempt to reform their government. If, however, every one of their earnest attempts to change their current government fails, it is then their utmost duty to completely overthrow their government and establish a new one which will adequately provide for their needs.
Keep in mind, though, that the drafters of the Declaration of Independence realized that overthrowing one’s government is a grave and dangerous measure. Consequently, they warned that the people should never even consider overthrowing their government for trivial reasons. Instead, only severe and long-lasting abuses by the government can warrant such a severe tactic.
Abuses Under British Rule
Despite the gravity of overthrowing one’s government, those that signed the Declaration of Independence firmly believed that the horrific abuses they had endured under King George III and the British government readily justified declaring the thirteen colonies independent of Great Britain. They listed twenty-seven grievances to concretely illustrate how the British rights of the American colonists had been compromised under British rule, lending credibility to their argument that the colonies needed to be completely and utterly independent of Great Britain. The first twelve and final five of these grievances refer to specific actions by the king himself that clearly violated the British rights of the colonists. Abuses thirteen through twenty-two, on the other hand, show how Parliament assisted King George III in abusing the rights of the American people. Ultimately, this list of grievances left no doubt in the minds of many colonists that their king and their fellow Englishmen had abandoned and failed them as the protectors of their rights and freedoms.
The Necessary Result of These Beliefs and Abuses
As a result of their political philosophy and the many abuses colonists had long suffered under British rule, those that signed the Declaration of Independence concluded in this document that an insurmountable barrier had formed between Great Britain and the American people. The British government had failed them to such an extreme degree that reconciliation was no longer a viable option. All that remained for the American colonists to do was to unite and form their own government, one completely outside of British rule and influence. Only then would they have a government that would provide for their needs through power granted by the people, rather than a government that would continue to suppress them through tyrannical rule.