Ask practically any American this week about their country, and they will likely tell you that – despite its faults – the United States is the greatest nation on earth.
I would even take it a step further by saying the United States is the greatest country there is, ever was, and ever will be…
But then again, I'm a bit of a homer.
Maybe it was all those World War II movies I watched with my great uncle when I was kid. He was an old sailor who was big on Admiral "Bull" Halsey, and by extension, so was I.
Or maybe it's because I'm much older now, and I realize just how dark the world would be without her. That much I am sure of.
But what I love most about my country is that it was founded on the idea that all men are created equal and are born with unalienable rights – among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Of course, Thomas Jefferson put those words much better than I ever could some 236 years ago when he penned the Declaration of Independence.
What you may not know is that Jefferson was just 33 years old when he sat down to the task of writing one of the most important documents of all time.
Chosen by John Adams for his "happy talent for composition and singular felicity of expression," it took Jefferson 17 days to complete under the apparent constant harassment of horseflies from a nearby barn. Being mid-June in Philadelphia, it was also undoubtedly quite warm.
I often wonder what that must have been like, using only an ink well, pen, and candlelight at night. Did Jefferson know his elegant phrasing and high tone would go on to forever change the world?
What was it like, that moment when he scratched out the word subjects and replaced it with the word citizens?
Was it a slip from a lifetime of habit… or Jefferson's first recognition that the people of his cause were no longer subjects of any nation- but citizens of an emerging democracy?
Of course, historians will note Jefferson was not the document's only author; his version was only the rough draft. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Congress itself made numerous edits along the way, hurting Jefferson's pride immensely.
In all, Congress made 86 edits, paring the original draft down by almost a quarter to its present 1,337 words.
Not surprisingly, Jefferson insisted years later his original version was actually better. Writers are like that.
Even so, the final draft of the Declaration was approved on July 4th, 1776 – a date since recognized as America's official birthday.
A month later, on August 2, the physical document was signed by 56 men who sat down and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor for a cause called freedom.
From that point forward, the die was cast.
And they – along with some other great men and their ragtag militia – managed to defeat the greatest power of the day, founding a nation the likes of which the world had never seen…
A nation that gave us people like Bull Halsey, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Elvis Presley and far too many others to begin to mention.
Words, indeed, are powerful things.
So as that flag passes me by in the parade tomorrow, I'll look at those stars and stripes and forget about the mess we're in.
Instead, I'll be thinking about Thomas Jefferson and one of the most famous phrases ever written…
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…
Now that is something to ponder over an ice-cold beer.
Have a great Fourth of July!
Money Morning will be back in your inbox the first thing on Thursday bright and early.
Until next time,
Steve Christ, Managing Editor