When the Founders of our great nation gathered 237 years ago to sign the Declaration of Independence, they had only an idea of the magnificent country to which they were giving life. But even in those early days, men such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and John Adams knew how important it would be to explain that the people who carved out 13 colonies on a new continent, and who created a powerful nation, had done so by the sweat of their own brows.
The king and his government across an ocean were trying to control - by any means they saw fit - a people who built everything out of little more than the raw material of fierce independence.
Those same Founders would not believe the degree to which the power and control of our own federal government has multiplied. They would not recognize a population that has become so enamored of, and dependent on, politicians in Washington, D.C., that they allow the kind of government we see today.
In laying out the colonies' grievances, the Declaration says, "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."
What follows is a list that includes: "He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good," "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice," and "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."
It takes little imagination to picture a transported Jefferson's reaction to an Internal Revenue Service that targets groups based on their political ideology, a Justice Department that monitors journalists, or a National Security Agency that collects the communications records of U.S. citizens. He would likely take up his pen and write a reminder to those same citizens; perhaps beginning where he left off with, "In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury."
It is true that polls show nearly three-fourths of Americans are unhappy with the federal government. More than 60 percent say they don't trust it. But when they do not feel pressure to produce such opinions, far too many are content to allow that government to grow, falsely believing politicians have their best interests at heart and will take care of them.
Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of the formation of the greatest nation on earth - a nation to which the rest of the world looked for guidance and help for generations - let us also celebrate our founding principles. Let us celebrate the men who devoted so much energy in the years following the Declaration to figuring out how to keep their own, new central government in check.
Many of us are unwilling to pledge even the little time and effort it takes to vote when we feel a twinge of concern about a president who believes he has free rein to push through laws he knows will do most of us more harm than good. Voting, of course, is our peaceful equivalent of demanding the change Americans had to go to war for so many years ago.
In 1776, our Founders felt so strongly the need to end oppression they were willing to "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
We owe them more than fireworks and hot dogs on this day. Every citizen owes it to the men who ushered this wonderful country into existence to remember its government derives its "just powers from the consent of the governed."