“The Declaration of Independence…[is the]declaratory charter of our rights, and of therights of man.”
— Thomas Jefferson, 1819
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.
– Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
Let us all remember that every man is equal and that the Declaration of Independence was written with that purpose in mind. This second paragraph lays charge to us all.
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.
Most people appeal to the first sentence of that paragraph, committing it to memory. But if all men are “created” equal and endowed with the unenalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, then it would do us well to commit the last sentence of that paragraph to memory as well. Would we rather remain in our suffering than to change the traditions to which we are accustomed? The Declaration says all, not some, of mankind is equal. Lest we’ve forgotten what all means:
Definition of ALL
a : the whole number, quantity, or amount : totality <all that I have> <all of us> <all of the books> b —used in such phrases as for all I know, for all I care, and for all the good it does to indicate a lack of knowledge, interest, or effectiveness
: everybody, everything <gave equal attention to all> <that is all>
— all in all
: on the whole : generally <all in all, things might have been worse>
— and all: and everything else especially of a kind suggested by a previous context <cards to fill out with … numbers and all — Sally Quinn>
There are no disclaimers, no exceptions to that basic of human rights. On this Independence Day remember that regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age or status it is your right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. And it is up to us to change the traditions to which we are accustomed when they fail.
Happy Independence Day!