In a time when virtually the entire world lived under the rule of kings and queens, a group of men living in a far-flung colonial possession made a political statement that shook the established order of things to its foundations. They declared thus,

“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.”

“All Men Are Created Equal”

1776: A Most Revolutionary Revolution

This statement turned the notion of where political rights resided upside down. Under the monarchies, the king or queen was selected to rule by God, not by his subjects. This was known as the Divine Right of Kings. Your ruler has been given his throne by God; all political rights were resident in him. Your king might lend his people some rights and privileges so they could do things for him, but he owned you outright. Your life, property, and every morsel of food you put in your mouth belonged to him. And he could end your life with just his signature on a piece of paper.

To oppose such a ruler was to break with and oppose God Himself. So rebellion was the worst political, social, and religious crime you could commit. Not only would you be excommunicated from your religion, but you would also lose your head. You would not just die, but die forsaken by God. This represented two deaths: one physical and the other spiritual. Your soul would be cast into Hell.

That was a pretty strong incentive to just go along with the established order. But not to the men who began our Revolution. They correctly reasoned that all political rights resided in the individual. Individuals then loaned some of their rights to a government empowered to use the loaned and limited power to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the People. It was not the People who were the servants of the State; but the State that was the servant of the People. That was and remains even today a revolutionary and totally unique political philosophy.

“A Revolution by the Wealthy and Privileged”

Our Revolution was truly revolutionary in another respect. It was a revolution by the wealthy and privileged, not the starving poor with nothing left to lose. Men like Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, Dickenson, Romney and the other Founding Fathers mostly represented the wealthy privileged class of American Colonists. They enjoyed just about all of the benefits that serving the king could bestow but found that without freedom and liberty a full belly and a life of material ease was worthless. In 1776, these men anticipated and rejected the promise of socialist governments that came more than 200 years later which also offer a measure of material prosperity in exchange for individuals surrendering all political rights to the state.

By the end of the Revolutionary War, many of these men would find their fortunes destroyed. But they attained their freedom and made us a new country too.