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Celebrate July 4 by reading the Declaration of Independence

As Americans celebrate the declaration of their independence from Great Britain (and its monarchs) Sunday, there will be the usual parades, picnics, fireworks, pool parties and summertime frivolity that have increasingly come to mark our holidays, the origins of which we disregard. For 245 years the American experiment has played out from that July 4, 1776, launch, on which the Continental Congress agreed this nation held certain truths to be self-evident.

During an era in which even those who call themselves political conservatives seem bent on expanding the size and control of government, it seems prudent to revisit some of the complaints Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston laid out against King George III.

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance.” In other words, he wanted control to stay in his seat of power in London, rather than in the colonies and with the people.

“He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature.” He wanted taxation and rule without representation.

“He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither …” King George wanted to limit the number of Americans.

“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” Jefferson and company knew how dangerous King Bureaucracy would become, it seems.

Those are only snippets of one of our most important founding documents. Most Americans barely know the first sentence of the second paragraph, despite the number of people calling themselves “patriots” these days. As we celebrate the beginning of our independence this weekend, it might be a good idea to revisit those founding principles. You can find a transcript here:

archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

Read it closely. Give it some thought. The spirit that inspired those words and created a new nation is powerful — worth reaffirming and celebrating. On its anniversary, let us not only light fireworks, but light a fire under our determination to be everything the authors of that Declaration dreamed we could be.

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