The Declaration of Independence was America’s first foreign policy document. It proclaimed to the world in 1776 our intention to become and remain a separate nation, while also expressing America’s political philosophy and the basic aims of government.

Building upon a rich Anglo-Western tradition that fostered virtues of self-government, the Declaration recognizes the popular sovereignty of the American people — comprised of individuals possessing rights that no government can take away. That is the idea of liberty, and the Declaration says it exists and has existed for all time in all places for all people, in principle. Over time, with great sacrifice and determination, the U.S. constitutional order has been remarkably successful at delivering on the promises of the Declaration for the American people.

The Founders meant to ensure the continuation of self-government at home where self-reliant individuals, effective local governments, and a limited Federal government with enumerated powers guaranteed the people’s exercise of liberty. Abroad the United States was to remain independent, not coerced by foreign powers, and safe from attack. The common defense of the American people and their system of government required a capable military, but the character of America’s role in the world was much more than “boots on the ground”.