About 30 lawyers and judges participated Wednesday in the second annual reading of the Declaration of Independence to commemorate the past and celebrate the country’s beginnings.
Local criminal defense attorney Kelley Dial spearheaded the local effort, which began last year, inspired by a national movement birthed in Texas and being carried out across the country by representatives of the justice system.
“We’re all familiar with the Constitution, but I think even us lawyers don’t read the Declaration very often and it’s just a good way to talk about the beginnings, not only of our nation, but of our justice system and to remind people how it started,” Dial said. “For several years, a lawyer in Texas has kind of instituted these readings and last year contacted the Network of Criminal Defense Attorneys to try and get it started nationwide so last year was our first year.
“This is sponsored by our local bar and the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and we intend to continue doing it every year.”
Among the 25 active participants reading a portion of the Declaration was District Attorney Rosemary Greene.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing for our community come together — to see criminal defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors here — to really celebrate the meaning of the Fourth of July,” Greene said. “It’s the foundation for all of our laws, our Constitution and where we come from. It’s the beginning and foundation of our role [as attorneys] — why we do what we do.”
Adopted on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and put into place the words which would shape America’s Constitution.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness,” states the Declaration as recorded by the U.S. National Archives.
Within the document, America’s founding fathers listed offenses incurred at the hand of King George III, including unfair taxation, abolishment of laws, suspension of legislators, quartering of soldiers and deprivation of trial by jury, among others.
For Cartersville attorney Thomas Hough, the Declaration represents much more than a historical marker. With its reading, Hough is reminded of what makes America special and marvels at the constant struggle known as the great American experiment.
“If I stand here more than just a few minutes and start thinking about this country and the people and the magnificence of the experiment that started and how it has always had this promise out there. It’s always looked like it’s not going to realize the promise and it never ceases to amaze me that we always wind up getting there,” Hough said. “As these guys got up, they almost assumed the role of that convention and you find yourself getting caught up in it and when you do, you really get in touch with the fact that it really does mean something to be an American.”
To read the Declaration in full, visit www.archives.gov.