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On July Fourth: The Declaration of Independence
THE BIRTH of the United States of America 236 years ago today was a happy occasion, but it was no fairy tale--and many of the 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence did not live happily ever after. Some lost everything they owned and died bankrupt. Some emerged from prison broken men. Others saw war's tribulations claim wives and children. Nine forfeited their own lives for liberty.
Reflect on the last sentence of the Declaration, reprinted below--the words about pledging lives and fortunes. As often as not, the pledges were called in. But no one lost the third treasure laid at freedom's altar. Whether well-to-do or impoverished, surrounded by family or cruelly shorn of loved ones, each Signer passed on with his sacred honor intact and shining.
Today, amid the entirely appropriate hoopla, consider that in a republic, now as then, there is no living happily ever after. Preserving and perfecting our freedom is a job from which no generation can retire, lest it give up the third, and best, treasure.
WHEN in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.