A just and solid republican government maintained here will
be a standing monument and example for the aim and imitation of the people
of other countries [who] will see from our example that a free government
is, of all others, the most energetic. That the inquiry, which has
been excited...by our revolution and its consequences, will ameliorate
the condition of man over a great portion of the globe.
—Thomas Jefferson, 1801
This is the
first Independence Day of the 21st century, the first 4th of July in the
new millennium. More significantly, this is the first time since
Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence—the first time
in human history—that more than half the world’s population is free to
elect the people who govern them. The two-word summary of this past
millennium is liberty triumphs.
We reflect upon
the significance that America is the first-born of free and democratic
republics. Consider that this accomplishment together with the Louisiana
Purchase gave America space and resources for growth. Jefferson gave
the new nation a creed and expanse to become a powerful prototype
that transcended the warring nation states in Europe. This is the
first 4th of July in which Europe is behaving like a cooperative union
of states—more like the United States—than at any time in history.
Moreover, for the first time in North and South America, the Organization
of American States is trying to protect the right of the Peruvian people
to determine their own government. And it is the collective actions
of nations that are setting human rights standards as conditions for entry
to such governing bodies as the World Trade Organization. Indeed,
our future depends on whether the world as a whole can agree upon certain
standards as the 13 American colonies did in 1776 and 1787. Meanwhile,
“the blessings and security of self-government” is spreading, as Jefferson
hoped, “to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all.”
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.
—Thomas Jefferson, 1826