When the signing of the Declaration of Independence was announced on July 4, 1776, it set off the greatest display of fireworks in the history of the world. No,
they were not the exploding, fill the skies, fireworks we use to celebrate the Fourth
of July today. They were the fireworks generated by the spirit of freedom and by the
desires of free-thinking people everywhere to breathe the air of self-determination.

Today, we still stand amazed at the foresight of our Founding Fathers, the creators of
the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights. Those three
documents were written by some of the greatest minds in the history of the world.

Thomas Jefferson wrote the lines that opened the Declaration of Independence, and
with those words affected the lives of millions of people all over the globe. Let’s look more closely at the key words of that great document.

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

At that time in history no government had ever been established on the principle that
men were created equal. It took the words of the Declaration of Independence to state in written form what was in the hearts of men everywhere, that we all deserved equal rights and the freedom to make out own choices.

The men who came together to create this amazing document are the heroes of our history books. Their names were Hancock, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Calhoun and a host of others. Family pride prompts me to mention Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island. These were men of property, wealth, and prestige. They had much to lose. What was it that motivated our Founding Fathers to run such a risk? They took on the greatest military force the world had ever known up to that time and bet their very lives on victory. What possible motivation could make them do such a thing?

The answer is that they did it to be free. They did it so that their children and their children’s children could live in a free society, the likes of which the world had never seen. They could look into the crystal ball of their vision for the future and see a government that would value every person as an equal, that would allow each person to contribute what was uniquely theirs to contribute, and that government would not weigh more than the people could carry.

The signers of the Declaration of Independence, heroes in American history, were all judged to be traitors by King George in England. After the signing, Benjamin Franklin was heard to say “We had all better hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

The U.S. Constitution that grew out of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence is less
than a quarter of the length of the owner’s manual for a new automobile, yet it provided stability and equality for the most passionate, energetic, and inventive people in the history of the world. We Americans are, indeed, a strange group here in this melting pot that mixed colors, creeds, languages, and amazingly unique abilities. With all of our differences, it is the Constitution that is the great leveler, the document that makes us all equal before the law. Some very smart people disagree with parts of that document and want to make some changes, but I’m not for touching one comma of it.

The foundation truth of that document, of our society, of our freedoms is that we trust the people, trust them to do the right thing, trust them with freedom. Let the government help where it can, but trust the people. Lincoln said it best in the last few words of his Gettysburg Address: This is a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” May it always be so.

Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.