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The lasting gift of the Fourth of July

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 04: Fireworks light up the night sky over Brooklyn on July 04, 2019 in New York City. This is the 43rd annual display of the Macy's Independence Day fireworks show. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

On the Fourth of July, Americans come together to celebrate their independence and their revolutionary experiment in democracy. This year, many voices believe that the experiment is failing.

Americans are expected to govern themselves, but we are neglecting to provide our citizens with the foundations to uphold these responsibilities, our shared values as a nation, and how this country has evolved over time.

The first part of the Declaration would enshrine two powerful principles that have come to define the fundamental values of the American nation.

Earlier in 1776, William Henry Drayton, a patriot from South Carolina, wrote a declaration of independence from Great Britain that had similar grievances against the crown -- the same complaints about the tyranny of the British -- but did not use any of the phrases regarding popular consent or the equality of rights for the people.

But our Declaration of Independence did argue that all men are created equal and that governments need to respect fundamental rights and represent the consent of the people.

Despite the limitations of the right to vote for poor men, for women, the continued existence of slavery and limitations on the civil rights of African Americans in the moment of our independence, the powerful rhetoric of equality and consent had a transformative impact.

Poor men throughout the nation would use the language of equality and popular sovereignty to claim equal access to vote during the founding era.

Abraham Lincoln would use the language in his Gettysburg Address in 1863 to remind a shattered country that the nation was "conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," and that the fight in the Civil War would help see whether these assertions could endure.

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