July 4 Celebrates An America Built On These ‘Self-Evident Truths’ — Not Just Our Independence From England

On July 4, 1776, Americans embraced these “self-evident” truths when we declared our independence from the British Empire:


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that we are all created equal.  We are endowed by our 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 us, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . . “


Years later, Abraham Lincoln stopped in Philadelphia on his way to Washington, D.C. to be sworn in as President. There Lincoln explained why the “sentiments” of our Declaration of Independence were far more important than “the mere separation of the colonies from the motherland”.

“I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence”.


When Americans adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the enslavement of blacks was legal in most of the 13 original states, and common in the southern states.

At that time, slavery was also legal and normal in most of the world.   Although Christians ended slavery in Europe during the Middle Ages, slavery remained legal and common in China, India and throughout the Islamic world. The capture and enslavement of Black Africans by Muslims was so widespread that “abd” or “abeed”, the Arabic word for slave, still also describes Black Africans.

Yet thousands of years of slavery throughout the world ended less than 87 (four score and seven) years after our Declaration of Independence.  Coincidence? Or was Abraham Lincoln, right? Did the “sentiments” of that Declaration give liberty not only to “all people of this country”, including Black Americans, but to people throughout the world?  This timeline suggests that Abraham Lincoln was right.

1776: Declaration of Independence recognizes the “self-evident” truth that we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

1777: Vermont ends slavery

1778-1804: All northern states end slavery

1787: Congress ends slavery in federal Northwest Territories that later become Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan Wisconsin, and Minnesota

1801: Americans, including Richard Somers of Somers Point, go to war against “Barbary” kingdoms in North Africa who capture, rob and enslave Americans on ships in and near the Mediterranean Sea. 

1808: Congress stops bringing new slaves into the United States.  U.S. warships stop slave ships and free slaves found on them. Robert Stockton, grandson of NJ’s Richard Stockton commands one of those ships.

1820:  Northern states oppose expansion of slavery into the new western territories of the Louisiana Purchase. Missouri Compromises barely keeps union together.


1830-1861: Northern whites create “Underground Railroad” to help slaves escape from Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri.  Severe damage to slave economy in those states.

1846: U.S. Army and Navy keep slavery out of California during the Mexican-American War. Robert Stockton of New Jersey plays a key role in this.


1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes popular novel Uncle Toms Cabin. The story is widely read in books and newspapers throughout America and the world. It is also performed on stage as a dramatic play throughout the world. Most Americans outside the South and people throughout the world overwhelmingly demand a quick end to the enslavement and oppression of Blacks.

1854-1859: John Brown and whites from throughout the North violently oppose the extension of slavery into Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska. In 1859, John Brown attempts to arm slaves and start a slave revolt in Virginia. John Brown becomes a martyr throughout the North when he is captured, tried, and executed in Virginia.


1854: Slavery opponents form the Republican Party. Its purpose is to elect opponents of slavery as President and as member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

1860: Anti-Slavery Republicans win White House with Abraham Lincoln and many seats in both houses of Congress. Eleven southern slave states start the Civil War when they attempted to leave United States.

1861-1865: More than 1.8 million whites and 180,000 Blacks fought in the Union army and navy to defeat the southern slave states.  (Between 750,000 and one million whites fought for the southern slave states).  More than 310,000 whites and 40,000 Blacks died fighting for the Union in that Civil War. (Roughly 258,000 whites died fighting for the slave states).

1863: President Abraham Lincoln issues an executive order freeing all slaves in states in rebellion against the United States.  The existing U.S. Constitution did not permit either the President or Congress to free any slaves during normal times. However, the President as wartime commander-in-chief had to the power to free slaves being used to help rebellious slave states fight the Union army. 

1864:  The border state of Maryland, a slave state that stayed in the Union, adopts a new state constitution to end slavery.

1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ends the enslavement of Blacks in America.

1868-1870: 14th and 15 Amendments to U.S. Constitution guarantee equal rights to freed Black slaves, including voting rights.

1876 to 1930:  Millions of Blacks leave South to find equal rights and success in northern states.  Harlem Hellfighters Infantry Regiment recognized for outstanding performance and heroism in World War One. Harlem Renaissance in New York.Sarah Spencer Washington in Atlantic City.
1963: Black economic and social progress slows or stops when leaders of Civil Rights movement emphasize politics instead of education and economic achievement to improve the lives of Black Americans.


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  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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