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A Most Remarkable Declaration

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                   July 4, 2008

A Most Remarkable Declaration
By Larry Arnn

Friday morning, July 4, our nation marks for the 232nd 
time the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 
which we have always regarded as the event that makes us 
what we are. Also we have regarded it as the event that 
marks us a special nation, a nation holding out a light 
to guide the rest of the world.

Always, that is, until lately.

Today critics celebrate that the world is passing us by.
Fareed Zachariah declares: “America remains the global 
superpower today, but it is an enfeebled one.” China and 
India will soon tower above us.

Amy Chua writes in her book Day of Empire that we are 
getting what we deserve. Our empire building and our 
“xenophobic intolerance” are the causes of our coming 
decline. These sentiments are as common in the academy 
as snow in the Midwest (apologies, global warming). 


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Increasingly our politics revolve around the fashions of 
other nations or of that vast entity, commanding and yet 
impotent—“the world,” or better, “the rest of the world.” 
Seldom now do our politicians hearken to the great doc-
uments of our republic, the Declaration and the Const-
itution, to guide their actions or restrain their amb-
itions. We are reaching, perhaps, the place where America 
does not matter. Many think this a happy place.

Before we call it happy, we might just revisit this old 
and neglected friend to see what he has to say.

The universal claims of the Declaration are more remarkable 
when one remembers that it is an act of treason carrying 
the risk of death to all who supported it. Especially at 
the end, where the resolve of the signers becomes particular 
and grim, one can see that the document contemplates sac-
rifice as the price of liberty:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm re-
liance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually 
pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred 


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A lovely sentence, it contains one of the four mentions 
of God to be found in the Declaration. As it forms a link 
to God, so it forms at the same time a band of brothers, 
Adams pledging his life to Jefferson, and Jefferson to 
Franklin and Hancock and all the others. It is the mood of 
the battlefield. It is the prayer of the soldier before 
the charge is sounded.

How curious then is the contrast between this solemn and 
resolute conclusion to the Declaration and its majestic 
and universal beginning. You have read the words:

When in the course of human events [meaning any time, not 
just 1776, and not just today] it becomes necessary for 
one people [meaning any people, not just our own] to dis-
solve the political bands that have connected them to 
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.

Is this not remarkable to read in an age dominated by re
lativism and multiculturalism? We may think today that 
morality changes with the individual, right and wrong diff-
erent in one nation than in another, but our fathers did 
not think that. They thought rather than our rights are 
written “as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human 
nature by the hand of Divinity itself” (Alexander Hamilton). 

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Look about the world today and you will see that many 
powerful nations proclaim precisely the opposite of the 
Declaration of Independence. The doctrine of China, 
official and lately reiterated, is that the suppression 
of religion and free speech by the privileged and the 
powerful is the only proper form of “democracy”. When 
the Russian government cooks elections, arrests candidates, 
expropriates the property of it opponents, it sneers that 
it acts for the motherland. If in these countries the 
people are allowed to work and to save for their families, 
it is because the interest of the state justifies it. If 
that interest changes, then their rights are forfeit. 
Notice the class politics of the current presidential 
race: does this idea not have a foothold here, too?

We might remember then, this Fourth of July, that our 
nation may not be perfect, but it can make a claim 
available to no other: in the name of the rights of all, 
it was built from the first to belong to its people and 
not to their rulers.

It is not given to any nation to be guaranteed preeminence 
of power; certainly we did not have it at our beginning, 
and we may not have it in future. Never mind: if we cling 
to the principles that brought us to life, we will use 
whatever power we have for good. If others nations do that, 
we can live with them in peace and celebrate their strength 
as much as they. If they do not, then we should remember 
the resolution of our fathers before a certain despotic 

The Declaration, you see, remains “the last, best hope of 
mankind on earth.” 

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