Celebrating Our Freedom – An Important Pathway
As we prepare to celebrate our independence on July 4th, it is a perfect time to give thanks for those who set us on a course of freedom by creating the founding documents of the United States. Even today, almost 250 years later, our hearts are stirred with love of country and patriotism, as we consider the longing for freedom held by these courageous men.
Independence Day is widely celebrated across this nation with parades, family picnics, BBQ’s, loads of ice cream, and fabulous fireworks displays. It is also a great time to remember how our freedom was achieved through the wisdom, inspiration, and sacrifice of the men who led us there.
The Declaration of Independence
The Continental Congress unanimously adopted The Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, announcing the colonies separation from Great Britian. It was engrossed on parchment and signed on August 2, 1776.
The first Paragraph reads; The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America; 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. They clearly and with great detail stated 27 longstanding grievances against the ruling authority in Great Britian which led them to declare independence.
The second paragraph spoke the truth that all men are created equal; endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. It also stated governments are instituted among Men, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
The third paragraph absolved the free and independent states from allegiance to the British Crown, and established the powers and rights given to those independent states. The last line stated so beautifully, “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.”
The US Constitution
The next important step, the writing and ratification of the US Constitution came over 12 years later in March of 1789, laying the framework for the government of the United States.
Preamble to the Constitution
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The Constitution defines the fundamental law of the U.S. federal government, setting forth the three principal branches of the federal government and outlining their jurisdictions. It has become the landmark legal document of the Western world, and is the oldest written national constitution currently in effect.
The Bill of Rights
To spell out basic civil rights, James Madison introduced 12 amendments to the First Congress of 1789. Ten of those amendments are known as the Bill of Rights which became the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. These rights should be recognized, protected, and committed to memory. They are critically important to every citizen of this great country. Below is a review of those rights.
Bill of Rights
- The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
- The Second Amendment gives citizens the right to bear arms.
- The Third Amendment prohibits the government from quartering troops in private homes, a major grievance during the American Revolution.
- The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. The government may not conduct any searches without a warrant, and such warrants must be issued by a judge and based on probable cause.
- The Fifth Amendment provides that citizens not be subject to criminal prosecution and punishment without due process. Citizens may not be tried on the same set of facts twice and are protected from self-incrimination (the right to remain silent).
- The Sixth Amendment assures the right to a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers, to be informed of the crimes with which one is charged, and to confront the witnesses brought forward by the government.
- The Seventh Amendment provides that civil cases preserve the right to trial by jury.
- The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishments.
- The Ninth Amendment states that listing specific rights in the Constitution does not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.
- The Tenth Amendment assigns all powers not delegated to the United States, to either the States or to the people.
Our system of government was built on the powerful words of the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Although the framework was not perfect, the concept of freedom is. Although the men who wrote these words were not perfect, they willingly gave their lives to champion these freedoms, and throughout our history, thousands have died answering a call to protect those freedoms.
As we celebrate our independence this year, let’s take time to give thanks for the visionary leaders who helped establish the United States of America. As we hear or sing the Star Bangled Banner, let’s give thanks for the many who made our freedom possible and celebrate the joy of living in this beautiful land.
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Contributor, Great Life Senior Care
Many details courtesy of National Archives