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Leonardo Angiulo: Something To Be Proud Of On Independence Day

Monday, July 08, 2013

 

When I think about the Fourth of July I think about a few things. Namely, and not necessarily in this order, beer, friends, barbeque, family and fireworks. Fact of the matter is that Independence Day is supposed to be a celebration of our Nation declaring itself free from tyranny and asserting those inalienable rights “to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitles them.” Now, without getting too preachy, I have to tell you that’s some high minded business.

The Declaration of Independence is a single document signed by representatives of the various states in America at that time. Within that document, the drafters establish what their complaints are, what they are going to do about it and why they believe they must do it. Through this document we have an almost living picture of colonial Americans and the conditions imposed by a Government that ruled without the consent of the governed.

I mean, the third paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is literally a list of all the heinous acts perpetrated upon the colonists. It reads like a list of reasons to be really, really upset. It includes things you have heard about in passing like taxation without representation and an out of control bureaucracy eating the colonies out of house and home. Some of the complaints are things I hadn't really considered before. Apparently, the King was seizing Americans who were sailing out on the Ocean and forcing them into his service as soldiers against the colonists at the threat of death if they didn't. Not only that but, according to the text, the King was also stifling immigration and the physical expansion of the colonies.

Now, I'll admit, it had been sometime since I had actually read the Declaration. And to be honest with you I may or may not have skimmed it in fifth grade once. Looking at it now, it strikes me as one of the most powerfully written pieces I have come across. One of the most compelling parts is the fact that 56 people put their names at the bottom. Their real names. Each one of those people had families and were business owners, attorneys and farmers. These are people that would have lost their lives, or worse, if this whole revolution thing didn't work out.

Something, I believe, we should be especially proud of is that when the Colonialists came to power they instituted written policies designed to prevent things from getting bad again. I mean, let's be clear, they could have just turned this whole place into another big power grab. But they didn't. Instead they gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Take, for example, their complaint in the Declaration that people were getting shipped back to England on trumped up charges. The fifth and sixth Amendments prevent this kind of thing from happening by requiring due process for the accused and making sure trials happen in the same place that the alleged crime is to have occurred. This is, for example, what prevents people from being shuttled out to D.C. when charged with a federal crime in California. Comparing the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is one of the few examples in history of people seeing something wrong, and then doing what they said they were going to do. In this case, liberating a nation from tyranny and setting us on a course to be a nation of free people.

Happy Independence Day.

 

Leonardo Angiulo is an Attorney with the firm of Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski in Worcester handling legal matters across the Commonwealth. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or through the firm's website at www.gskandglaw.com.

 

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