When was the last time you read the Declaration of Independence?
It might be a good time to pick it up again.
For one thing, it – along with the preamble of the Constitution – is just some of the most profound writing in human history.
The founders could’ve written, “Hey world, here’s why we’re doing this.” Instead, they painted a flowing and vivid word picture:
“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.”
But they were just warming up.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are 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 instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Then, after outlining the offenses of the British crown that provoked the proclamation, and “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” they declared independence.
Finishing with a flourish – in our opinion, in one of the most moving passages in the long and tortured story of mankind – the founders took note of the grave danger their declaration would put them in:
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
What a consequential moment. What a potent summation of their perilous predicament – to “pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
Has there ever been a more powerful or encompassing pledge among a band of brothers?
And is that spirit completely gone today? Do you detect anything like that spirit of unity and purpose emanating from Washington?
Our founders pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to one another. Our “leaders” today bicker and posture and jostle for position. Their constituents are now groups of groups – special interest groups often divided by ethnicity and other wedges of “identity politics.” Their representatives and lobbyists spend their days and nights, and considerable amounts of money, pressing for advantage over one another.
Where is the honor in that, much less sacred honor?
We have allowed and encouraged our leaders to focus so much on what separates
us that we can no longer see what unites us: a freedom and self-reliance – and a resulting burden of responsibility – that may be unprecedented in its scope and duration.
America is both an ideal and an idea. It truly is an experiment in self-governance. But that means that the glue that holds it together has to come from we the people, not a prince or
In other words, we need to stick together, the way the founders did.
Are we capable of that? Could we really pledge our lives, fortunes and sacred honor to one another?
If not, what is to become of us?