Have you read the Declaration of Independence?

January 1, 2013 | By Shane Phelps Law
Have you read the Declaration of Independence?

Two hundred and thirty seven years ago a group of patriots, fed up with government over-reaching and abuses, signed their names to one of the most significant documents in the history of mankind, the Declaration of Independence.

Two hundred and thirty seven years later, we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with barbecues, beer, fireworks, and a day off work.

I think it is important for Americans today to take a moment amidst the celebration to reflect on the sacrifices made by our founders to secure the liberties we too often take for granted today.

One way to do so is to simply read the document. It is an amazing read. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson laid out a compelling case for revolution and a warning to leaders and governments who forget why they exist and whom they serve:

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 effect their Safety and Happiness.

As a result of the vision and sacrifices of our Founders, we enjoy rights and freedoms unparalleled in human history. To properly appreciate these rights, we owe it to the Founders to remain mindful of the motivations that led to their great act of courage in signing the Declaration.

So, take the time, today, to Google the Declaration of Independence and read it.

Yesterday, to highlight the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the rights it recognized and established, numerous members of the Brazos County criminal defense bar joined hundreds of defense attorneys across Texas and the United States in reading the Declaration of Independence in public. Sixteen of us gathered in front of the Brazos County Courthouse and took turns reading the Declaration. There was a good crowd and I was heartened to see several children present. In fact, my daughter, Mary Claire, started off the reading.

Why criminal defense attorneys? Because no group of Americans is more acutely aware of the erosion of our rights in present-day America than the attorneys who fight for those rights every day. We want Americans to understand that to truly be free, you must be aware of, appreciate, and most importantly, exercise your rights.

If we don’t exercise our rights, we will surely lose them. So take a moment today to read the Declaration of Independence. Understand why our great republic exists. Appreciate the sacrifices and courage it took for each Founder to sign the document, knowing that it very likely meant either imprisonment or death if unsuccessful.

Then ask yourself: “Would I have signed the Declaration of Independence?”

Happy Fourth of July and God Bless America.