Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

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Freedom and Tyranny: The Meaning of Independence Day

A reflection amidst the barbecues and fireworks and the paeans to patriotism.

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The Fourth of July is not just another day off from work. Nor is it just the celebration of our country’s birth, the bold act of the Colonists in challenging the world’s greatest power and creating a government based on freedom and self-rule. On this day 241 years ago the delegates to the Second Continental Congress adopted a document that laid the foundations of the American political order. Sadly, the meaning of the Declaration of Independence has been lost, and the order it created eroded by progressivism.

One of the greatest statements of political philosophy occurs in the preamble to the Declaration:

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 . . .

Government is a creation of the sovereign people who must consent to its forms and functions. It is thus accountable to the people, and exists primarily to protect their rights, especially freedom, that precede government. These rights are the “unalienable” foundations of our human nature, and come from a “Creator” and the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” They are not gifts of the powerful or any institutions that an elite of wealth or birth create to serve their interests. They cannot justly be taken away by any earthly power, but they can be limited and destroyed by tyranny. Read more →

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