The Fourth of July: Truly a Legal Holiday

More than just a day of fireworks and barbecues, Jeffrey A. Ahonen, Paralegal Program Chair at Globe University’s Eau Claire and La Crosse, Wisconsin campuses, reminds of why July 4th is a national holiday.

On July 2, 1776, a resolution was adopted by the Second Continental Congress of the thirteen American colonies.  On that historic day, the United Colonies, which had been warring with Great Britain for more than a year and debating with one another for nearly as long, resolved “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” (Richard Henry Lee’s handwritten resolution is part of the National Archives).

The simple resolution of independence passed on July 2nd was followed by the better-known Declaration of Independence. That declaration, which was developed by a committee that included Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4th and signed by the various colonial delegates on August 2, 1776.  It is the date of ratification of the Declaration of Independence that we celebrate as our national day — our nation’s birthday. (You can view an image of the signed version of the declaration from the Library of Congress).

It truly is a day worthy of celebration, though not only because it is the anniversary of the declaration of our political independence from Great Britain. It is also a day for celebrating our dependence on fundamental human rights as the basis for our nation’s entire legal system. These foundational rights are highlighted in one of the best-known phrases of the Declaration of Independence, which 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.”  These essential rights of every person  were fully in view when the framers of our fledgling nation of states developed the federal and state constitutions and governmental systems, so that these individual rights were preserved, protected, and promoted by the rule of law. To this very day, the various governing bodies at the federal, state, and local levels, together with the citizens who both rule the government and consent to be subject to it, strive to guarantee equal protection under the law to each and every person who comes under the law’s jurisdiction, so that all in this nation might enjoy a life blessed with liberty and ending in happiness.

Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate this true legal holiday!

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