July 4, 1776, a world date

On July 4, 1776, the ruler of the British Empire, King George III, sat down with his diary and wrote, “Nothing of importance happened today.”

Little did he know that the world would long note the Declaration of Independence signed that day by representatives of 13 British colonies in North America. The declaration went far behind secession. It was a declaration of liberation from what was seen as overbearing and unjust rule.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with 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 . . . Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”

The Declaration of Independence was written during a time later labeled by historians as “The Age of Reason.” The principal author, Thomas Jefferson, was an intellectual progressive in his day. His ideas and his words became a beacon that has shone around the globe for more than two centuries. They are among the most quoted words in the English language because they sing with the clarity of a universal truth – a hymn that goes beyond any one religion to a basic longing of mankind.

The great American experiment begun in 1776 continues. Today, basic principles of government are being argued as passionately as they were when the documents underpinning the U.S. government were written – by the voting public, Native Hawaiians and others. It has been and always will be an effort to bring human motive and action in line with the highest philosophical principles.

The realities of American life have not always stood the tests of reason or “unalienable rights,” but the 1776 trust in reason and the good sense “of the governed” has more than stood the test of time. May it always be so.

(This editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.