“Sacred Honor” – The Last Words of the Declaration of Independence
I’ve always been a fan of the Declaration of Independence as a written work. Though some find the language of the time difficult to decipher and a bit wordy, to me it is a classic piece of journalism that answers the who, what, where, when, why and how of the conditions that led to a Revolution. The Declaration was a long time coming, having been the product of decades of abusive policies and foreign rule. The document simply recited those conditions and offered a remedy.
The most intriguing concept of all can be found in the final section of the final sentence, “… we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” The word honor is singled out here. To the signers, their lives were not sacred. Their fortunes were not sacred. They appear to have fully realized that the only thing likely to endure an armed rebellion, if it came to that, would be the ideas, beliefs and faith that formed the philosophical heart of what we today call liberty.
Like the Bibilical character Job, the men who signed the Declaration went through some tough times before and during the Revolution. Once the Declaration was delivered to the British, the signers were branded criminals and could not return to their homes out of fear of arrest and imprisonment. As it became evident that peaceful resolution was not possible and armed conflict began, many lost their homes, businesses and farms. Yet they stood their ground, having dedicated their lives to the principles of liberty, equality, and justice. The stories of how some lost everything and died in poverty are as inspiring as the tales of those who lived past the Revolution to take part in the framing of the Constitution and the founding of a nation.
For all the signers, the one thing that was sacred was their honor. That was the gift they hoped to leave for future generations. There is no honor in taking from others or in subjecting others to pain, suffering and tyranny. Honorable men have the ability to see tyranny and the backbone to stand against it, though all they own may be taken from them as they fight by whatever means necessary to ensure liberty for themselves and their fellow citizens. There is no more honorable pursuit than the cause of liberty for the common good. This is what I think of on Independence Day.