Thomas Jefferson explained that the object of the Declaration of Independence was:
“Not to find out new principles of new arguments never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we [are] compelled to take.”
The Declaration was intended to be an expression of the American mind. Jefferson wrote of his completed project: “Whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it.”
The Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest and truly inspired documents of all time. Have you read it lately? Ezra Taft Benson, Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, uttered these profound thoughts:
“If we accept the premise that human rights are granted by government, then we must be willing to accept the corollary that they can be denied by government. If Americans should ever come to believe that their rights and freedoms are instituted among men by politicians and bureaucrats, then they will no longer carry the proud inheritance of their forefathers, but will grovel before their masters seeking favors and dispensations. . . . We must ever keep in mind the inspired words of Thomas Jefferson as found in the Declaration of Independence:
“‘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.'”
“Since God created man with certain inalienable rights, and man, in turn, created government to help secure and safeguard these rights, it follows that man is superior to government and should remain master over it, not the other way around.”
One wonders if we, the people, have perhaps forgotten some of these basic principles.
Now, you remember Patrick Henry who stayed home in Virginia instead of attending this Continental Congress?
He and Thomas Jefferson were friends and fellow Virginians. Tom was invited, when he was still studying for the law, to listen at the door of the Virginia House of Burgess, as Patrick gave what became know as his ‘Brutus speech.’ Many years prior to his ‘Give me Liberty speech.’ It has been said that Tom referred to that day as perhaps the most important day in his life–for on that day, as a result of that speech, a flame for freedom and liberty was lighted in his heart.
Patrick Henry did follow through on his resolve to see that the legislature should adopt a new constitution. And they did. It was on July 5, 1776, that Patrick Henry was sworn into office as the first governor of the new State of Virginia under its new State Constitution.
As Thomas Jefferson once said: “In matters of the Revolution, Patrick Henry was our leader. He left us all far behind.” It may be that without Patrick Henry’s unconquerable spirit, we may not have had that resolution for independence from Richard Henry Lee. We may not have had that spark for freedom and liberty that led to the Declaration of Independence. We may not have realized our libery or freedom as a nation at all!
And yet all most citizens know about Patrick Henry is that he once said: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”