We celebrate the Fourth of July, the day that the Declaration of Independence was adopted. It was composed primarily by three men—Thomas Jefferson, who did the primary writing, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. We owe these authors a debt of gratitude for bringing the principles of Enlightenment, then sweeping through Europe, across the Atlantic and establishing the first country based primarily on those powerful ideas.
All Men are Created Equal
The Declaration was a list of grievances against a king, explaining why the 13 colonies were in revolt against the last vestiges of divine rule, as well as a statement of the principles of liberal democracy.
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
The focus on liberty and the pursuit of happiness reflects the principle that all people should be free to maximize their own personal development and fulfillment, so long as their actions do not prevent another from doing the same. This is mirrored in Jefferson’s famous statement:
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
Freedom means the right to “believe”, or not believe, whatever you want—and that ideal should inspire us to progress toward inclusiveness.
Our Founding Fathers held belief in the principal of the primacy of reason, that human rationality can provide solutions to our problems and improve the condition of the world.