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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts – As we all take advantage of this long holiday weekend, it’s important to take at least a moment to think, not of the day we’ll spend at the beach, or the dramatic fireworks show, but of the true meaning of America’s day of Independence. For starters, the popular misconception is that the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were “great Americans.” In actuality, they were “great Englishmen” just like the rest of the citizens of the American colony, and had the colonies not won the war, they would no doubt have all been executed for treason. What set these great men apart, was their willingness to truly pledge their lives, fortunates and sacred honor” in defense of a singular belief that changed forever the way governments were viewed.
Until the American revolution, the very dictum which existed held that laws derived from governments, and that all peoples derived their rights from those governments. The founding fathers espoused an entirely new way of thinking, which at the time seemed totally absurd, yet now exists as the framework of civilization. Casting away all previous dictums, they laid claim to the fact that rights did not come down to us from governments, but rather that all people were “endowed with certain inalienable rights” which with their birthright, and that it was governments who were granted right, through the consent of the governed. They further made the simple assertion that when governments cease to protect and defend the rights of the governed, that the people had a fiduciary duty to cast off the flawed government and put a new one into place.
Of course, even the best of governments established can become problematic over time, which is why the founders were careful to limit the powers of the government, and specifically enumerate the rights of the people. With the ultimate passage of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, they set forth two deeply held beliefs. First, they felt that the Federal Government, in the future, and not some foreign entity, would constitute the greatest threat to the rights of Americans. Secondly, that only the specific enumeration of rights would ensure that no government in the future would ever take them away. Of course, the devil, as they say, is in the details, and even two hundred years later these very enumerated rights are still subject to debate. That said, the American system of government remains on of the most stable and successful in the history of the world, and we owe that to the brave patriots who sat in Philadelphia that fateful July date, and sealed the fate of our nation forever.