Monday, July 03, 2006

Some thoughts on the 4th of July

There is the story that when Thomas Jefferson was busy writing the American Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776, he had a copy of William of Orange’s Apology of 1580 which denounced the claims of King Philip II of Spain as rightful sovereign of the Netherlands provinces.

Both documents indeed were written in a very similar spirit. Their main point was to establish the principle that a government is there to protect the rights of the people and not to trample them. In the case of the Netherlands, this was the first time ever in history that such clear language on behalf of a sovereign people was written.

Jefferson’s words and those of William of Orange continue to firmly root the identities and legal principles of our two nations.

Today, we consider the principle of an accountable government, installed to serve the people and not to bully them, as self evident. However, it is far from superfluous to remind ourselves – now and then – of the circumstances and the persuasions of those long forgotten days. History has not been a single avenue from slavery and oppression to freedom and individual enterprise. Time and again, people in power extended their reach, movements emerged to submit entire nations, wars have been waged – for no other reason than egotism, greed or shere hatred.

My own – American and European – forebears were immediate witnesses to the historic events of independence and self government on either side of the Atlantic, and thus there is an additional incentive for me to honour the memory of their contribution to our present day liberties – at least in my own country. But I also consider this a personal responsibility. In whatever way I can, which of itself is modest and most certainly of litle bearing to the general course of history, I will at least attest to this heritage.

The 4th of July for me has a very special meaning. Jefferson has been my hero for most of my life, and so has William of Orange. Today is a day of celebration for many people in our world.


Post a Comment

<< Home