“All men are created equal.” It’s a self-evident truth. But it’s not the point of “the Declaration.”
The point is revolution.
We no longer depend on tyrants. We’re breaking it off. We are free. We shall govern ourselves.
Thomas Jefferson cobbled together a series of non-debatable axioms, mostly borrowed from other writers, as a preamble to the litany of complaint, which, in turn, justified the action.
The matter at hand is the action. It’s not what they said, it’s what they did. The preamble comprises the set up, not the punchline.
The average colonial American, upon hearing of “unalienable rights,” or “just powers” derived from “the consent of the governed” & etc. would have merely nodded along: “Of course, of course, everyone knows this.”
And yet, in our time, many seem to think “the Declaration” was penned to proclaim eternal verities about the human condition — a poetic tribute to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — as if it were a collection of fine words about high-minded ideals.
No! It was a rebellion against bad governance, against political arrogance, against oppressive laws, against restriction, constraint, and imposition without representation.
We call it “the Declaration,” but that’s not the object. It’s the “Independence,” stupid.
The members of the Second Continental Congress did not expect to forfeit their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor for stating the obvious about the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Their necks ripened for the noose because they altered, abolished, and threw off the yoke of their government.
They counted all as loss to obtain freedom; to be absolved of allegiance to their government, to dissolve all political connections between themselves and the state which they had always referred to as their own.
“The Declaration” offers exhaustive reasons for committing open treason, nonetheless, treason it was.
Independence Day then is not a celebration of government, but a regular reminder — albeit a fun one — of the necessity to reject corrupt, abusive government.