June 28 2002

Commentary

A Free and Independent People

Fourth of July is a day to recommit ourselves to Declaration of Independence

By Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy

With all the fireworks and barbecues, it is easy to look on the Fourth of July as simply a pleasant mid-summer holiday. It is much more than that. It is Independence Day, a celebration not only of our nation’s birthday but also of our national character. Americans are an independent people, free and self-reliant.

The Declaration of Independence marks a watershed in human history, the dawn of a new vision of human right: “... that all men created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are institute among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...”

The signers of the Declaration were committed to waging a Revolutionary War against Great Britain and to pursuing a revolutionary idea: Government is not imposed from above by brute force or the “divine right of kings.” Its authority comes from the consent of the governed. The people are sovereign, not the king.

The Declaration of Independence declares that people are not to be treated like little children. Government should not be a nanny, telling us what is best for us. It is a servant of the people, doing what we tell it to do.

This distinctively American vision of government gives us great freedom. It also requires great responsibility. We must be eternally vigilant to make sure our freedoms do not slip away, one by one. That is what happened to the Thirteen Colonies at the hands of King George III. The King is long gone, but the danger continues. Now the culprits are elected officials and bureaucrats who think —as George II thought— that they know what’s best for the rest of us.

The King of England, in the works of the Declaration, “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance...” The Declaration goes on to condemn the king for “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.” Those words have a familiar ring to those of us who have had a hoard of government bureaucrats rummaging through our businesses or tax collectors rifling through our wallets.

This Fourth of July is the perfect time for all of us to renew our commitment to the Declaration of Independence, to remind ourselves and our government that not only is this a free country but that we are free people, and that “Governments are institute among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...”

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage