It is a sad truth, confirmed again and again in the annals of human history, that regimes and peoples gradually or suddenly find themselves mired in some hateful tyranny. This seems to be an inexorable truth of political life, where all good things decay. Yet, just as surely, here and there and in unpredictable ways, some enterprising souls throw off oppression in the name of human liberty. If they are great, they do not simply tear down the tyranny but also raise a new regime that takes human happiness as its goal, and with it promotes freedom.
Today, we invite all our families and community members to reread the Declaration of Independence. As a statement of human liberty, it is unparalleled. As a testament to courage and responsibility, given the immensity of its political project and the dismal hopes for battlefield success, it has few peers. Above all, as Americans, it is good to remind ourselves about our origins, about who we are as a people. For our Founders saw a tyranny for what it was, tore it down, and in its place set the foundation for the most successful modern republic we know. In Abraham Lincoln’s words, they crafted an “apple of gold” with the Constitution as its silver frame.
The Declaration of Independence lays out for us, and for any people thinking about justice, what government by right can do, and what by right should happen when it fails. It teaches us that all human beings are by nature free. No one is born with a saddle on his back, and no one is born booted and spurred ready to ride him. This is our fundamental premise. If one does not accept it, then in thought and feeling one will arrive at a kind of regime directly opposed to any that America could support. From this beginning, we know that no government can be just that fails to recognize natural human equality and the goodness of liberty, and no government deserves the people’s solemn trust when it does not exercise power to promote life, liberty, and the equal pursuit of happiness.
Now to the real question. The Declaration has us ask, at what point does tyranny become unbearable, such that one could reasonably call upon the spirit of 1776 as intellectual and historical support to revolt? Fondly do we hope that in America we never come again to that grave question. But the only way that we will not, given the inexorable truth that all political life gradually or suddenly moves to tyranny, is to remind ourselves, every Fourth of July (or more often!), of the principles that must guide us here and now. We must agree with Calvin Coolidge who, in 1926, claimed that the Declaration of Independence remains “firm and unshaken.”
From all of us at Golden View Classical Academy, a very happy Independence Day!