The Fourth of July is more than hot dogs, colorful banners and fireworks.

As a matter of fact, many historians point to this date as the event that changed the course of mankind — the moment when the “Free World” began.

We all know the romantic story of how a group of ragtag colonials rose up against the powerful king and his large army to create an independent nation.

But the truth is, there is much more. So much more.

Under the architectural vision of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and a handful of others, they crafted and shaped a document that for the first time in history placed the rights of the individual above those who governed them.

According to the writings signed by 56 brave individuals, mankind was “endowed to each individual by the Creator with unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Take a moment to reread those words before moving on.

We need to remember that until this moment, rights and privileges were reserved for the rich, powerful and few.

The concept of an individual’s rights being equal and superior to those governing was radical — it was an earth-shattering challenge to those in power around the globe.

And the idea that these rights are extended to us by our Creator — not the person who happens to be wearing a crown or holding a gun.

This concept was as revolutionary intellectually as it was on the battlefield.

Frankly, it still scares the daylights out of those in power around the world.

And it was just this empowering concept that changed the course of human events forever.

Furthermore, Jefferson and the Founding Fathers believed the power of government lay with the people — that the government served at the will of the farmer, the doctor, the shopkeeper.

The government was simply to serve the needs of the people, not to dictate what the individual could do.

Fast-forward 238 years, and we can see the world continues to rock from this radical concept.

While citizens of the United States of America continue to enjoy the greatest range of freedoms on the planet, a vast majority of the human population still lives in a world diametrically opposed to ours — where the individual serves at the will of the government or powerful.

Rights and freedoms are replaced by the daily need for finding food, water and shelter — all under a heavy air of intimidation.

So, this Fourth of July we encourage you to reflect on what this date really means in the context of mankind.

Because on this date, in 1776, the world changed forever.

• Leonard Woolsey

(6) comments

Carlos Ponce

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Steve Fouga

I'm pretty sure the actual words are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

We already have the freedom, thank God. THAT right is the most important concept in the entire document.

LeonardWoolsey Staff
Leonard Woolsey

You are correct -- I apologize for the typo (not sure where that came from...). Thank you for your sharp eye and best wishes to you and your family for the Fourth of July weekend. -- LW

Jim Casey

We should celebrate the independence of the United States and the greatness that came from it.

However, the concept of individual freedom did not spring from the mind of Thomas Jefferson like Athena emerging fully grown from the brow of Zeus.

The Anglo-Saxons had principles of individual freedom dating back to pre-history. This was confirmed in Magna Carta in the 13th century.

In the 17th century, the English Parliament asserted its power to appoint or dismiss a monarch and to limit the powers of the monarch by a bill of rights, which included bail and freedom from taxation that was not approved by Parliament (that is, taxation without representation).

These were bases of the U.S. Declaration of Independence..

Also it is generally overlooked outside Massachusetts that the dice were cast at the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, when Americans fired on British soldiers. From that point, there was no turning back.

The Continental Congress resolved to declare independence on July 2, 1776. It just took a few days to write up a formal declaration.

None of this is meant to diminish the courage of those men and women who risked everything they had for the freedom that we enjoy today.

-- Jim

Miceal O'Laochdha

Too bad the benevolent and freedom loving Englishmen were unwilling to share those rights with the Irish, Americans, Indians, Egyptians, etc., etc.; except at the point of a gun.

The concept of individual freedom, as it relates to those human and societies whom the beloved British would hold in subjugation, did indeed spring from the minds of Thomas Jefferson, Padraig Pearse, Mohandas Ghandi and others of their intellect and courage.

At least, that is my view.

Jim Casey

The British deserve no brownie points for the way they treated Indians and Africans, the Irish, Catholics, or members of "nonconformist" religious faiths. They didn't grant women the right to vote until the early 1900s—just slightly ahead of the U.S.

Their concept of liberty applied only to the right sort of people—but that's true of every country.

- Jim

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