In the echo of the Supreme Court’s resounding affirmation last week of the rights of individuals to a fair trial, of the limits of the power of the executive, and of a system of checks and balances—in other words, the principles on which our country was founded, ill-defined war or no—this 230th anniversary of the independence of our country seems especially dear. So I like to turn back to the source of much of that dearness, as well as to look around for some other words of inspiration. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the last letter of his life, ten days before his death:
May it [the Declaration of Independence] be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
The emphasis, of course, is mine.