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Happy 238th, United States

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The United States of America celebrates its two hundred and thirty-eighth birthday this year. On the one hand, it is a young nation when compared to the likes of Egypt, Persia, Rome, China, Japan, Ethiopia, and others. But it is also older than Great Britain (formed by Acts of Union, 1707), the French Republic (First Republic 1792), Italy (1871), Germany (1871), and the various new nations in the rest of (North and South) America.

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The founders of the new United States used the social contract theory and their faith in the power and worth of the individual as written about before and during the Enlightenment, including the writings of Marcus Aurelius, John Wycliff, Martin Luther, Jean Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, as well as many others to craft the building of its governmental skeleton.

The United States Constitution is the oldest document of its kind in history. It is the skeleton of the body of US law extending from the individual to the nation as a whole. Unlike any other country when it was born, the stated theory for its existence was as a social contract between the society and the individual which is captured in the language of its constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." In other words, the people lend power to the US government which in turn provides them with the environment to grow and prosper. It has been a balancing act and a process of growth sometimes done well and sometimes not so well.

A process of growth? Originally, a state was the same as a country. American states (or countries) in 1776 ranged in size from the giant Viceroyalty of New Spain to county-sized tribes like the Mattaponi, but with the exception of the Iroquois and a few others, they were not united. Thirteen smallish, jealous more-or-less English speaking states decreed themselves one nation and declared war on the world's premier empire to experiment with the idea that "...governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.... "

The present populations of New York City and Los Angeles are both larger than the total population of those thirteen states were back then. Since then, the United States has mushroomed to more than 100 times its original two and a half million people. From the few square miles hugging the Atlantic the United States grew to the third largest country in the world stretching from Atlantic to Pacific, and from the tropics to the Arctic. It has sent visitors miles deep into the oceans, people to the moon, and spacecraft entirely out of the solar system.

The United States' experiment spread. New nations formed of revolution like the United States' spread throughout Central and South America, speared on by generals like the "George Washington of South America," Simon Bolivar. The French monarch was deposed and the French formed the First Republic. Canada's formation was the result of Britain's applying lessons learned governing and losing what became the United States. And other states have copied various aspects of the United Staes as well.

July 4 is celebrated as Independence Day by the United States. The Republic of the Philippines used to call 4 July its independence day as well, but since 1961 the day has been Republic Day. The United States granted the Republic of the Philippines its independence from the US on 4 July 1946, but liberated the Philippines from Spain on 12 June 1898. Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Liliuokalani was deposed and a Republic of Hawaii declared on 4 July 1894. It later was annexed by the United States and became the fiftieth state in 1959. The Northern Marshall Islands were liberated from Japan 4 July1945. Denmark and other countries celebrate the US’s birthday with parades and festivities every 4th. So it appears that in a way, Independence Day is international.

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