The Declaration of Independence had two major purposes — to proclaim the states independent of British rule, and also to explain why these states had made such a declaration (“…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”)
So what does this document mean for us today? Is it simply a dead piece of paper? Absolutely not. Consider some of the statements Jefferson, the primary author, makes throughout the document concerning why independence had been declared:
…to secure these rights (of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed…
…whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government…
…when a long train of abused and usurpations…reduce(s) 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.
Aside from these general statements, consider some of the specific wrongs perpetrated by King George, and ask yourself if our government is not strikingly similar. For example:
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.
…For imposing taxes on us without our consent.
…For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.
King George might find himself quite at home were he President of the United States today. The founders would expect nothing less than decisive action on our part in opposition to such a government, and this is exactly why organizations like Young Americans for Liberty and the Campaign for Liberty are so vitally important.
Or, in the words of John Adams:
No, Posterity, you will never know what it cost us to preserve your freedom. I only hope that you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.