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American Independence
read in Macedonian


July 4 is American Independence Day.  Like September 8 for Macedonians, July 4 is the day that we declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  But the Declaration only signaled that we believed ourselves a free and sovereign nation.  The British didn’t see it that way so thereafter followed the American War of Independence, also known as the Revolutionary War.  We fought for our right to be free; that war took over eight years and ended on September 3, 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.  The war cost over 25,000 American lives.

That Declaration, adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, is a unique document in world history and is, to those of us who are Americans, our calling card.  It announced to the world then – and now – that we were a different people.  The preamble of the Declaration is something that most American schoolchildren once learned (sadly, most today don’t even know what the Declaration of Independence is).  But the preamble is worth reading and understanding.  It states:

“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 affect 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.”

Two important points about the above.  First, the Founding Fathers who wrote the Declaration wrote that mankind has certain unalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Certainly life and liberty are necessary to the existence of man.  But happiness?  You don’t always have to be happy to be alive.  What did the Founders mean by the “pursuit of happiness?”

American writer P. J. O’Rourke writes about this unusual feature of our founding document and equates “happiness” with the pursuit of private wealth, and private property.  O’Rourke also notes “Other countries are built upon battle, blood, nationality, culture, language and territory.  America is the exception.  Our foundation is pursuit of happiness.” He makes a very valid and oft-over-looked point. No other country – in history – addresses this.  As he points out, the Magna Carta didn’t.  The French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man didn’t.  The failed EU constitution didn’t. The UN Charter certainly doesn’t.  But the Founding Fathers of the United States of America put it in our founding document.

The Founding Fathers essentially meant that Americans would be free to pursue making money with their labor or with their minds (intellectual property).  The phrase “pursuit of happiness”  was the phrase for the free market economy; Americans would be unhindered by the new government in pursuing honest wealth.  (Granted, whether or not one is “happy” by having a lot of money is another point entirely).

The other important point is that the Founders wrote about the need to change a government when that government becomes intolerable.  American life, under the British in 1776, had become intolerable.  The interests of the Americans were not represented back in London and the British who ruled the American colonies in 1776 were poor overlords.  Their lack of interest in the well-being of the Americans led to a series of abuses of power; when the American colonists could no longer take it, they rebelled by passing the Declaration. That key phrase “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” gave the Founder Fathers license to rebel and create a new government, a new nation and a new people.  But the Fathers also cautioned against changing an existing government for “light and transient causes.”

Since that hot summer day in 1776 in Philadelphia, the American Declaration of Independence has served as a beacon to people in despair across the world and across the centuries.  Millions have thrown off the yoke of tyrannical governments and have proclaimed themselves as free people.  The American gift of the Declaration of Independence has inspired, encouraged, and liberated many.  It is my hope that it continues to do so.

God bless the United States of America.

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Jason Miko
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