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Reflecting on Independence

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Buente
  • 615th Contingency Operation Support Group commander
As we prepare to celebrate the 226th anniversary of the independence of our country, I think it is appropriate to reflect on the document that started it all. The Declaration of Independence is a document we have all read at one point in school, but how much can we recall from those lessons? Here's a little refresher to put the holiday and the document itself in context.

After the French and Indian War, Great Britain heavily taxed the 13 American colonies in order to recoup the expenses of the war. All of these taxes were levied without approval of the colonies, and despite multiple appeals, were forcefully imposed by the British military. This led to events like the 1773 Boston Tea Party, where tea was thrown into the harbor in protest of the heavy taxes. It is important to remember that the American colonists, by and large, considered themselves British citizens and were loyal to the king.

Taxes and other "repeated injuries and usurpations" resulted in the growing colonial sentiment that the colonies were not benefitting from their current relationship with Great Britain and this could only be corrected through independence. By claiming independence, the colonists were essentially committing treason, a crime punishable by death.

In June 1775, the colonies debated independence. Without a clear majority, the Continental Congress appointed a five-member panel to draft a statement citing the colonies' position and their case for independence. Thomas Jefferson was one of these five and created the first draft of what we know today as the Declaration of Independence. Before the Declaration was presented in Congress, both Benjamin Franklin and John Adams provided comments to the original text. On July 2 the document was formally presented to Congress and was approved on the fourth of July - our Independence Day.

The Declaration is made up of four parts: an introduction, the preamble, body and conclusion. The introduction makes the statement that a person should be able to determine how he is governed, thus laying the groundwork for independence. The preamble, by far the most famous part of the document, contains the three truths - all men are created equal, that they have certain unalienable rights which include, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that governments are created by the people at the consent of the people. These truths form the basis of our present day Constitution. The body cites the many injustices suffered by the colonies and the actions the colonies have taken to appeal to the British government without effect. Finally, the conclusion lays out that independence is necessary and right, and severs all ties to Great Britain. The Declaration ends with "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

As you enjoy your Fourth of July holiday this week, take some time out to reflect on the values, courage and dedication shown by our forefathers and embodied in the Declaration of Independence. As the basis of American values, the Declaration of Independence is just as applicable today as it was 226 years ago.