An interesting take on the legacy of the Declaration is given by Calvin Coolidge in his "Speech on the Occasion of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence." Coolidge argues that the purpose of the Declaration and subsequent Constitution
. . .was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever-broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.
Those who are truly inclined to investigate the veracity of Coolidge's claim should consult Murray Rothbard's four volume Conceived in Liberty.
The essence of liberty as defined by the founders is the right to property. All of our other cherished liberties--freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble, freedom of speech--all derive from our being secure in our person and property. Let us not forget this fundamental fact on this day.