Endowed by Their Creator
“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,” proclaimed our founders on July 4, 1776.
Have you ever wondered why the founders used “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence instead of “Almighty” or “Father” or some other name for God?
Precise word choices are important to writers. The more specific the word, the better. The members of the Continental Congress who served on the Declaration of Independence committee were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and, of course, Thomas Jefferson.
If they had chosen “Almighty God” instead of Creator, the name would have indicated God’s power, which would have been a good choice but not as specific. If they’d chosen “Father,” the phrase would have sounded parental but also intimate, another good choice but more fitting with our modern sensibilities than theirs. Showing formal respect for God was more common in 1776 than personally reflecting on our relationship with God as we do today.
“Creator” was an ideal choice because it showed God in his Genesis or authorship role. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them,” proclaims Genesis 1:27. This distinction was very important in 1776. The American Revolution was a change in people’s thinking about government and the origins of man’s rights. Creator indicated that change better than other words for God.
Some kings of England, including Charles I a century earlier, believed that because they ruled England, they were actually deity or part-God. The founders wanted to make their objections to this philosophy clear. God gave humanity rights, not man. Therefore, man—the king—didn’t have the right to take away certain, natural or “inalienable” rights because these rights came from God, the Creator of humanity.
They believed that King George III, the current king of England, wasn’t God but a man who had abdicated his God-given responsibility to protect their God-given rights.
Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams knew the power of words. Because they lived loudly for liberty and chose strong precise words such as “Creator,” we now live in the land of the free today.
Jane Hampton Cook is the award-winning author of eight books, including her newest on the national anthem, America’s Star-Spangled Story, and American Phoenix, featuring a man and woman down-on-their luck, John Quincy and Louisa Adams, and the War of 1812.