The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
Last weekend in Warrensburg was a busy one. Activities included a parade, music, fireworks, merchant drawings, food booths, and honors for descendants of early settlers. Independence Day is and should be a festive occasion. However, I think that the one solemn activity that should occur was omitted - a public reading of one of the most important documents in human history, the Declaration of Independence.
The war for independence had been going on for over a year when the Declaration was signed; it was to continue another 5 years before reaching a decisive military conclusion and 2 additional years before our independence was recognized by treaty. Nevertheless, we celebrate July 4th because that is when the moral justification for our nation was publicly proclaimed. I want to share my thoughts on the opening sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident+ - The very nature of the truths about to be stated is so obvious that they cannot rationally be disputed. "That all Men are created equal" - All humans are equal before God, implying that they must also be equal before the State. "That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" - The rights to be enumerated are not given by the State but are part of the very nature of humanity; the rights are so basic that they must be recognized whether or not accepts the existence of a Creator.
"That among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" - This enumeration does not limit rights to these three; others may exist and be later discovered. While Life and Liberty are obvious, please note that the Pursuit of Happiness does not mean that one has a right to catch it. "That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men" - Recognizes that there must be some way to protect these rights from those who would deny them and governments are a method to do so. "Deriving their just Powers from the consent of the Governed" - This contains two very powerful ideas. The first is that government must exercise powers only with the consent of the governed; the second is that only just powers may be legitimately exercised, even if the governed consent to unjust powers. Slavery and discrimination are two examples of unjust powers once granted by consent. Misuse of eminent domain seems to be an unjust power that polls indicate the people do not consent to.
There is more, and others have no doubt expressed these thought more eloquently than I. I hope that in future years our public officials will publicly read these words so we can all reflect on their meaning.
This website compliments of