Yes, yes, we all know that this is the day the American colonists declared their intent to separate from England by adopting the Declaration of Independence at the Continental Congress. And yes, there was a nasty five-year war after that in which we squared off against the redcoats… and then they smacked us around a bit in 1812.
But, at the heart of it, we love the British.
Face it, English accents are sexy, and so are Jaguars. (And yes, I know the Indian company Tata Motors bought Jaguar Land Rover, but I try to ignore that fact.)
Let me explain…
Declaration of Independence Influencers
For many years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wasn’t given credit for drafting the document. Which, at least for a bit, suited him just fine. Jefferson claimed there weren’t any new ideas in the Declaration.
He pointed to John Locke, the English philosopher who is often called the “Father of Liberalism,” as a main source of inspiration. And many of the concepts in the Declaration can be found in Locke’s work. In his Two Treatises of Governrnment, Locke defended the claim that men are by nature free and equal. And he argued that people have rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property. Those words are strikingly similar to the first lines of the Declaration of Independence. Which claims that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Other influences were Montesquieu and the Scottish Enlightenment. The document even begins with “We the People,” not we the delegates of the Congress, or any other identification. This shows that it’s meant to be all-inclusive, using the same terms as Locke and others when discussing universal truths and rights.
As time wore on, Jefferson began accepting credit, especially as the nation grew in importance, much to the chagrin of John Adams, who called Jefferson’s actions grand theater.
Hats Off To The British
Beyond the main ideas behind the Declaration of Independence, we’ve taken a lot of other things from the Brits. For instance, television shows such as “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?,” “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?,” and “The Office.” For “American Idol” we took not just the show’s template but also one of the British original’s judges, Simon Cowell.
So as you enjoy your Fourth and toast our fabulous nation, take a minute to raise a pint for the British. We might have freed ourselves from the Kingdom, but they still seem like family.