Reflections on the Declaration of Independence

A man displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence outside the Old State House in Boston on July 4.
A man displays a copy of the Declaration of Independence outside the Old State House in Boston on July 4.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Every Fourth of July, we print the Declaration of Independence so that its text and ideas can be interrogated by a new generation. This year, with the nation convulsed by a pandemic and protests against police violence, we asked our readers what the Declaration of Independence means to them. The following is an edited sample of responses readers posted on bostonglobe.com:

“We should reexamine six words set into the Declaration of Independence: ‘that all men are created equal.’ The framers wrote these radical words in a time of enslaved Africans, disenfranchised women, displaced Native people, and the invisible poor. Today, these six words are words to march by. How can the divided United States reawaken the principles of our constitutional democracy for tomorrow?” — J.E. Ingoldsby


“In 2020, I’m particularly struck by the end of the Declaration: ‘And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’ In addition to fighting for what our government owes us (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness), we must also remember that our Republic only thrives when we honor how very much we owe each other.” — Kate Schlesinger

“Each year, I read the Declaration of Independence in The Boston Globe, and each year I find something different about it that captures my attention. The word ‘freedom’ means so many things. For the men who wrote this document (Jefferson mainly), the word freedom clearly meant freedom from the English monarchy and its demands. At the same time, I thought to myself: The right to bear arms does not include the freedom to bully others.” — Jim Sutton

“It means nothing to me. It was a document created by white men and for white men. The very idea of ‘all men are created equal’ is hypocrisy at its best. Women and people of color were considered property, and it would take years and a civil war to begin to change this inequality — and it’s been a long and painful journey.” — Heather Campbell


“Samuel Huntington, who is one of my ancestors, signed the Declaration of Independence for Connecticut. He was also president of the Continental Congress. His courage and intelligence have inspired me to be politically active and an advocate for those citizens who are not represented. I want to say the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘and justice for all,’ and know it is true.” — Nancy Lory

“As with the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence is a reminder of ideals (often not met but which we still should strive for). So too is it a reminder of ruthless colonialist policy and white men’s professed ‘right’ to providence and property. Weigh for a moment the words ‘all men are created equal’ against the Declaration’s assessment of indigenous people as ‘merciless Indian Savages.’ ” — Ryan Spencer