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.
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; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
Read the whole thing, and try to listen to the words, not as a piece of history, but as the deliberately reasoned conclusion of a group of people who felt these words so strongly that they were willing to risk their lives for the untested principles therein.
Nowadays the theoretical morality and practical advantages of replacing despotism with democratic self-government are widely recognized. Those who throw off the chains of tyranny are following a well-trodden path to a known destination. But someone had to take that first bold step into the unknown, guided by their vision of a just society and frustration with existing systems. Without such pioneers, the world would be doomed to endlessly retread the same weary paths, ignorant of the greener pastures that might lie ahead.
Change always provokes defensiveness and suspicion from entrenched power structures and the human mental bias towards stasis. But it would have been a terrible loss for humanity if America’s founders had resigned themselves to the status quo of monarchical tyranny. As it would be for us today to resign ourselves to the status quo of terrestrial democracy. So on this July 4th, let us pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor that we will not make the same mistake.