We hold these truths to be self-evident

Published 7:27 pm Friday, July 3, 2009

Today, we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, one of the mainstays of our country.

At the time of its adoption, the document notified the world that this confederation of 13 states had separated themselves from British rule and explained to the people of the world the reasons for this separation.

Essentially, this document lays out how the new government will work: It will have the power to make war, sign peace agreements, form alliances with various nations, conduct trade and do whatever necessary to conduct business as any other national power.

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Key to this document was the message it would send to foreign nations, especially the French, because the confederation of states needed the help of the French in their war against Great Britain.

It is in the conclusion of this document that the great debate rises even today. The Declaration of Independence says the former colonies are free and independent states and have the full power to levy war — an indication that each state individually had the right to make peace, make war, etc.

This raises the age-old question. Is the United States a loose confederation of independent states, which could act on behalf of its own interest? Or was the U.S. a strong centralized nation in which the powers of the whole were stronger than the powers of each individual state?

The Civil War and the civil rights movement played with these questions and even challenged some of the thought.

But the beauty of this government is its ambiguity.

Happy Fourth of July.