THE IRON PEN by Daniel Hite

July 1, 2016

The Declaration of Independence: Our American Creed

Filed under: Uncategorized — danielhite @ 9:05 am

IST-IS162RM-00000177-001As Americans, do we really know the importance of the Declaration of Independence? It is not simply a 240-year-old list of grievances given to the King of England, although that is part of it, but it is a declaration “to a candid world” of what we believe about humanity and government. It is our unique American Creed. As Thomas Jefferson stated, “It was intended to be an expression of the American mind…to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.” (letter to Richard Henry Lee, May 8, 1825). Six years earlier, Jefferson wrote that the Declaration of Independence was a “Declaratory Charter of our rights, and of the rights of man.” (letter to Samuel Wells, May 12, 1819). Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines “charter” as:

1. A written instrument, executed with usual forms, given as evidence of a grant, contract, or whatever is done between man and man. In its more usual sense, it is the instrument of a grant conferring powers, rights and privileges, either from a king or other sovereign power, or from a private person, as a charter of exemption, that no person shall be empannelled on a jury, a charter of pardon, &c. The charters under which most of the colonies in America were settled, were given by the king of England, and incorporated certain persons, with powers to hold the lands granted, to establish a government, and make laws for their own regulation. These were called charter-governments.

2. Any instrument, executed with form and solemnity, bestowing rights or privileges.

JeffersonJefferson understood the Declaration as a pronouncement of human rights conferred. I would submit to you that the “sovereign power” conferring these rights upon us is God Almighty. In fact, God is referenced at least four times in the document from Whom man receives endowments and entitlements and to Whom man makes his appeal: Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, Our Creator, The Supreme Judge of the World, and Divine Providence. These four acknowledgments reveal the legislative, judicial, and executive nature of the Almighty. (Sound familiar? See also Isaiah 33:22 and James 4:12)

If one would strive to categorize the 27 grievances listed in the Declaration, one would see that the issues taken with the British Crown dealt with the lack of what we would call a “separation of powers” (thus the King was dubbed tyrannical). The harshest words were reserved for grievances dealing with the lack of “limited government” power, and, of course, there was the lack of “representation.” These three concepts became central to our Constitution and the new government which it organized.

I have saved the most obvious for last. Besides the observations mentioned above, there are at least 12 principles mentioned outright in the text of the Declaration of Independence (before and after the list of grievances) that show us the “American mind” of 1776 and the charter of rights to which Jefferson referred. I challenge you to read the Declaration and find them in the text. Here are the 12 principles listed in the order in which they appear in the document:

1) National Sovereignty, 2) Natural Law, 3) Self-evident Truth, 4) Human Equality, 5) Inalienable Rights, 6) the Inalienable Right to Life, 7) the Inalienable Right to Liberty, 8) the Inalienable Right to Property (characterized as the Pursuit of Happiness), 9) the Primary Purpose of Government (to secure and protect our rights), 10) Popular Sovereignty, 11) Federalism and States’ Rights, and finally, the principle of  12) Divine Providence.*

This is the American Creed. And these are the foundational principles upon which our U.S. Constitution is based. Our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, fluently and grandly spoke to this truth in an 1839 address:

Now the virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States, and was to give to its vital existence, the stability and duration to which it was destined, was no other than the concretion of JQAdamsthose abstract principles which had been first proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence – namely, the self-evident truths of the natural and unalienable rights of man, of the indefeasible constituent and dissolvent sovereignty of the people, always subordinate to a rule of right and wrong, and always responsible to the Supreme Ruler of the universe for the rightful exercise of that sovereign, constituent, and dissolvent power.

This was the platform upon which the Constitution of the United States had been erected. Its VIRTUES, its republican character, consisted in its conformity to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, and as its administration must necessarily be always pliable to the fluctuating varieties of public opinion; its stability and duration by a like overruling and irresistible necessity, was to depend upon the stability and duration in the hearts and minds of the people of that virtue, or in other words, of those principles, proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Constitution of the United States.  (Speech to The New York Historical Society, April 30, 1839)

Our beloved Constitution is based on the principles written into the Declaration of Independence. No wonder we celebrate July 4 and September 17! It is a celebration of what we hold dear as a nation. It is a celebration of our American Creed!

On July 4, remember our American Creed, the Declaration of Independence. Read it! Love it! Celebrate it! John Adams was our second President, father to John Quincy, and founding father to all Americans. I leave you with his reason for celebration–prophetic words which he penned in a letter to his wife, Abigail, the day following the vote on independence on July 2, 1776:

john_adamsThe second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph…

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. – Psalm 33:12

*With thanks to Dr. Allen Quist

(This is an updated reprint of my July 2013 blog entry.)

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1 Comment »

  1. Friday, July 1, 2016
    Good evening to Dan Hite!
    Quoting above, “Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph…”
    Praise the Lord!
    Thank you, sir, for again stirring our hearts,
    Bud and Nancy Williams, Troy, MO

    Comment by the Williams Family — July 1, 2016 @ 10:41 pm | Reply


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