Author: Timothy Sandefur
We hope everyone has a joyful Independence Day weekend. Americans are a very fortunate people, and whether your celebration includes a visit to a museum, or a veteran’s memorial, or an important American historic site, or just relaxing with friends at a barbeque or a picnic, we hope everyone will take time to reflect on how very fortunate we are. There’s a reason for that good fortune.
The United States has never in its history suffered a famine. Although there are many horrible exceptions, America has been relatively free of religious or class persecution. Americans are freer than just about anyone else in the world to express their opinions, own their homes, pursue their careers, worship as they please, and to choose how they live their personal and political lives. This is reason for grateful joy. And the peace and prosperity that we enjoy are due to the principles of our national constitution. Not just the great 1787 document that formed our government, but the principles that make us a nation instead of just a random group of people—principles enunciated on July 4, 1776.
We hope you’ll take time this weekend to re-read that great document, the document that sets the framework for understanding the Constitution and laws of the United States. It is because these principles are timeless—and the threats to them never far off—that we at Pacific Legal Foundation continue to work in the courts across the country in defense of individual freedom, racial equality, and limited government. As Abraham Lincoln told us 151 years ago,
It happens that we meet together once every year, sometime about the 4th of July, for some reason or other. These 4th of July gatherings I suppose have their uses. If you will indulge me, I will state what I suppose to be some of them….
We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it; and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves—we feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations. But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it. We have besides these men—descended by blood from our ancestors—among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men, they are men who have come from Europe—German, Irish, French and Scandinavian—men that have come from Europe themselves, or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.
If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.