“Independence Day is our greatest national celebration, with barbeques, parades, speeches, and fireworks all across the country. And although there seem to be fewer grand commemorations these days, historically the Fourth of July has been the occasion for solemn ceremonies and great speeches about the meaning and purpose of America. That’s because while we tend to think of independence mainly as an important historic event that marks our separation from Great Britain, the Founders and subsequent generations had a larger understanding of what was signified by the national independence they were celebrating.
Americans sought independence not only from Great Britain, after all, but also from military occupation, royal overseers, arbitrary laws, taxation without representation, and ––as it says in the Declaration of Independence––everything that “evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism.” But in doing so they also were declaring their unity––or interdependence ––as a people, a compact of states, and a new nation. Independence implied at the same time separation as well as the creation of a new and independent country, living and governing by its own means and according to its own ways…
What does it mean to be independent? Literally, the word means “not dependent” which comes from the Latin for “hang down” or “suspended from”––as in a pendant hanging from a necklace. In practical terms, something that is dependent hangs on, or is reliant on, something else. A person who is dependent is less free. The American Founders deplored this idea, following Blackstone’s definition: ‘Dependence is very little else but an obligation to conform to the will or law of that superior person or state upon which the inferior depends.’”