“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.”
Pretty boring stuff, huh. Well, some of the most intelligent and courageous Americans that have ever lived didn’t think so. This is the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, written on July 4, 1776. It’s the next sentence that people remember, but we’ll look at that in a minute. No, the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence (DOI) is not the most exciting read, but it is absolutely foundational. It is absolutely foundational to why America is great.
But why, you might ask, does something that happened over 200 years ago matter that much today? And the answer is that all major movements that have had a positive impact on humanity throughout history have happened out of core beliefs and principles. The principles that undergirded the founding of our country are the reason this is the country we love today. Furthermore, it’s principles that caused legions of people to leave the strongest nation in the world for a better future in an unknown, but wide open land. It’s principles that allowed a band of ragtag (yet magnificently courageous) militia fighters to defeat the most powerful military in the world. And it’s principles that will cause the success or the failure of any person, political party, or nation on earth. We need to get our principles straight; know what we believe and why we believe it, before we can convince others to follow us or to write policy that will change individual aspects of our society. We must know why we want to accomplish something before we can begin the hard work of accomplishing it.
And this brings us back to the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers of the United States of America listed in the first short paragraph of the DOI the underlying truths that they believed allowed them to separate from England and start a new independent country. They were Nature’s Laws and Nature’s God. We see the implications of this in the next sentence of the DOI.
“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.”
With these words, the founders not only separated themselves from their native land, but they stated the principles on which this new country would be founded; life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We will not address these three principles in this post because the next three weeks we will be discussing each of these topics. However, it is important to note the first part of the sentence. The founders saw that it was perfectly clear (self-evident, in fact) that all men are created equal. The obvious implication of this that comes to mind is the eventual freeing of all slaves in the USA, and this is true. However, turn from the “equal” part, and look at the “created” part for a moment. For all men to be created equal there must be, EGADS, a Creator!
Yes, the existence, work, and blessing of an almighty, all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God and His attributes were the impetus behind all of the principles that eventually lead to all men actually “being” free in the USA, to all men (or people) having the freedom to achieve their own level of success, to be free to pursue their own religion, to speak, to write, and to disagree with the establishment. So, in reading the DOI (and this is true for many other founding documents) the most core, underlying principle of the founding that has enabled this nation’s success and prosperity is simply the acknowledgement of the existence of God.
It only takes a cursory reading of the DOI to see that the principles the founders proclaimed led to the freedoms and form of government that were established in the Constitution 11 years later, and have led to these United States immeasurable wealth, strength, coveted freedoms and much more that we still enjoy today. It wasn’t strong, populist policy. It was firmly rooted beliefs based on the existence of Nature’s Law and Nature’s God. And the three primary principles that grew out of this belief were that all people were endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.