For the last few days, I’ve seen a few hashtags online calling for people, especially women, in the United States to denounce what the Fourth of July represents. They’ve been urging people to refrain from celebrating the Fourth this year. At first, I thought this was incredibly unpatriotic. It made me sick to my stomach and a little angry if I’m being honest. In the end, however, my drive to understand what this campaign to denounce the Fourth of July was all about won out. Here’s a brief overview of what I uncovered. And questions for you to consider, as well. Be sure to read the post to the very end. You might be surprised.
A brief note on the history of the Fourth of July holiday
The Fourth of July signifies the official severance of the first thirteen states of the United States of America from Britain in 1776. It was codified by the document called the Declaration of Independence.
But in the twenty-first century, when Americans think of the Fourth of July, they tend to think of hot dogs and barbecues, sprawling green lawns, pools, and fireworks. In the back of their minds, sure, they consider how the holiday came about originally. And that it has something to do with our freedom and independence from Britain–especially while they’re staring at American flags all over the place. You know, those American flags contorted to fit on funky plastic sunglasses and bathing suits and lawn chairs and picnic napkins. Honestly, sometimes it feels like everyone is really celebrating summertime, not freedom and independence. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with this per se, just that the concepts of freedom, democracy, and self-government tend to fall to the wayside as Fourth of July celebrations are underway. At least, for a majority of Americans, sadly.
Read these sources to refresh your memory or learn about the holiday and its history. Even if you think you know, there’s always something worth being reminded of, and you might have forgotten something important.
- Reader’s Digest. What Is the 4th of July, and Why Do We Celebrate It?
- Encyclopedia Britannica. Declaration of Independence: United States history
- National Archives. archives.gov. Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
Highlighted passages of the Declaration of Independence to consider right now
Here is the full text of the original Declaration of Indepedence, original typos and mispellings of certain words included.
The words and passages highlighted in this section are necessary to consider in our current age and political climate. Please consider the highlighted passages, then keep scrolling to review the section of this post, “Current important questions surrounding the Declaration of Independence,” below.
In Congress, July 4, 1776
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.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
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, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
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, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured 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, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And 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.
Current important questions surrounding the Declaration of Independence
Consider the highlighted words and passages of the Declaration of Independence above. Now, consider the questions below.
- What terms and phrases are contradictory or culturally assumed in the document– given the time period and people writing the document– in the document, especially where “powers of the earth,” “God,” “Creator,” and “Natural Laws” are concerned?
- What does it really mean that only “men are created equal”– not all humans? Does this ultimately negate the overall power of the rhetoric in this document? Especially for the current era in which we live?
- Is this document a form of protest? Or something else? Why was it necessary to write it?
- Are all of those who are being governed truly consenting, or expected to consent, to any form of government created on their behalf? Were they back then? (What about men who didn’t own land, women, indentured servants, slaves, native peoples?)
- Where does safety and happiness of those being governed come in to play in our current era?
- How do the following phrases compare to what we’ve heard in recent years, and where do they differ?–” a long train of abuses,” “absolute Despotism,” “absolute Tyranny,” “let Facts be submitted to a candid world,” “public good”…
- Do all the indicments made against the King above– mostly those highlighted sections beginning with “He”– sound familiar to things we’ve heard recently? Do they sound like anything a current person alive with governmental power has done? Or a current governmental body or group of people who are governing, or have power over those who are governing, today?
- Would it be more patriotic to remember and uphold the ideals upheld in this document? Or to ammend them for our current era?– Especially as we continue to celebrate Fourth of July?
Ultimately, while it seems jarring at first, those who aren’t celebrating the Fourth this year are much more patriotic than I believe they might be perceived to be at first. Especially if one takes a long, hard look at the language and purpose behind the Declaration of Independence and what it is supposed to both idealistically and practically represent.