“The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power,”
—Alexander Hamilton, “The Farmer Refuted,” Feb. 23, 1775
Happy Independence Day.
The birth of our nation and the simultaneous birth of the revolutionary idea that just governments derive their power from the consent of the governed still inspire freedom-loving people everywhere.
Look in the streets of Hong Kong, where some 2 million demonstrators are unwilling to accede to Beijing’s star chamber justice. The 243-year-old Declaration of Independence still echoes there.
Look to Sudan, where December protests over an economic crisis turned into a movement that took down a totalitarian government. The crowds of Khartoum, like the patriots of Philadelphia, are willing to risk their lives, fortune and sacred honor for liberty.
Over the years, more than 120 nations have echoed the self-evident truths of 1776. Historian David Armitage says more than half of the 192 nations represented in the United Nations have founding documents considered declarations of independence.
In France and India, from Soweto to Tiananmen Square, the fight has repeated itself.
As fireworks soar and neighbors gather for backyard feasts, it’s worth remembering what a close call the American Revolution was. The Continental Army was often underfed, ill-clothed and outgunned in the field. Funding was a constant obstacle.
It took the machinations of spies, alliances with foreign powers, tenacity and leadership to weather parlous times in a challenge to the world’s only superpower, the British Empire.
About 6,800 Americans died on the battlefield; 6,100 were wounded. Another 17,000 died of disease. Some 20,000 were taken prisoner, and 8,000 would die in captivity.
This from a Colonial population of 2.5 million. Multiply those numbers by 131 to get 2019 equivalents.
The Declaration of Independence defines unalienable rights — endowed by a creator — to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
They were ideas worth fighting and dying for then, and they remain that way today.
Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks during the 1921 Mass Graves Public Oversight Meeting.