Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 251
July 7, 1997

"Our Lives..."


Another Fourth, another reading of the Declaration of Independence. Each year I open my dog-eared college reference book, Documents of American History.

Three things impress themselves on me.

First, I continue to find the beginning two paragraphs genuinely inspirational. The majesty and cadence of the words touch some very deep feelings in me. Of course, these most famous words are found there:

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.

Next, I am always startled by how truly radical the Declaration is to any established order. For example, don't these words give support to today's militia movement which views the U. S. government as the enemy?

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 principle and organizing its power in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safely and Happiness.

Finally, I am always humbled by what these men--of privilege and substance--were willing to do in the name of freedom: to place their names on a document which was so dangerous to each of them personally:

And for the support of this Declaration with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

This was not an idle pledge since, if the British had won the war, people like Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson would certainly have lost their fortunes, most likely their lives, and would have found their fame limited to the obscure footnotes of doctoral dissertations.

"Would I have signed this Declaration knowing the real consequences of failure," I ask myself. No clear and easy answer comes forth. That deep disquietude will arise again on next year's Fourth.


--Robert H. Tucker
7 July 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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