A declaration before independence

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

As we approach July Fourth, we are easily reminded how liberty and independence come with a hefty price tag.

Our nation continues to fight in a war half a world away, in places we cannot pronounce against enemies whose goal it is to kill as many Americans as possible for reasons we don’t fully understand.

Still, we will celebrate the Fourth by raising flags, hosting cookouts or exploding fireworks. But the reasons we celebrate the Fourth should not be forgotten.

It was 231 years ago when colonists — many of whom hailed from Virginia — outlined a series of injustices and declared themselves members of &uot;Free and Independent States … Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown.&uot;

In short, those were fighting words, words defended with blood and death for five years until 1781 when the British commander surrendered not far from here, on the banks of the York River at Yorktown.

The armed force that defeated the mighty British Empire was little more than a ragtag militia that somehow banded together long enough to wear out the superior adversary.

Ill-equipped, small in numbers, outgunned, the colonial army somehow persevered.

Americans are quick to overlook the history behind the Fourth.

The Declaration of Independence should be given more respect not just now, but throughout the year. Because of it — and the incredible compromise and unimaginable civility that followed through the years — we’re independent. We’re still free, for example, to decide what we worship and where we worship.

While the Declaration may not be the most visionary document in our history, it is the inspiration that formed this country.

Perhaps the most memorable portion of the concept and the writing is contained in the second paragraph that reads all men &uot;are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.&uot;

Is there nothing more pure, more obvious than &uot;life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness&uot;?

In a speech delivered at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, President Abraham Lincoln, a great thinker and prophetic speaker, said:

&uot;I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence…. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this great Confederacy so long together.&uot;

He said the Declaration &uot;gave promise that in due time … all [men] should have an equal chance.&uot;

Those words were uttered in the winter of 1861. Are they not true today?