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Why we celebrate July 4
signing declaration 1776
"Declaration of Independence," by John Trumbull

Sunday is Independence Day, celebrating July 4, 1776, when colonial representatives voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.

The document was written by Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia lawyer who was 33 years old. He incorporated revisions suggested by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.

“The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America. When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  ...”

Jefferson was inspired by English Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, who refuted the divine right of kings.

“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. — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. ...”

The declaration continues with a list of grievances against the King of Great Britain. Imposing taxation with representation was only one of them. The 13 states of the new United States of America now declared themselves free and independent.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Two hundred and forty-five years later, the bold declaration continues to challenge us and inspire us.