Tag Archives: Declaration of Independence

What We Celebrate on the Fourth, by Robert Curry

The American Revolution is still revolutionary. From Robert Curry at realclearpolitics.com:

“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.”

We have heard these words all our lives. But can we still hear the dynamite in them? According to tradition, when the British under Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, their musicians played “The World Turned Upside Down.” The American victory over Britain was more than a military victory; it changed everything.

The world in those days operated on the basis of utter inequality. The self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence contradicted the entire experience of mankind. Whether the ruler was a king who claimed to rule by divine right or an emperor who claimed the mandate of Heaven, it was everywhere the same. Because the Founders’ idea of government by, for, and of the people is so deeply engrained in our imaginations, it is difficult for us to conceive of human life as it then was.

America’s truly incredible social and political success put this older world on the road to extinction. Foreign observers went from confidently predicting that America would fail to living through the collapse of their own regimes, made illegitimate by America’s shining example. Kings and emperors are gone now or reduced to mere ceremonial figures. Today, only peculiar and backward places, like Saudi Arabia, operate according to something like the old way of governance, and everyone knows that this anomaly will last only as long as the Saudi royals can continue to bribe their subjects.

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Celebrating the Fourth, Then and Now, by Jacob G. Hornberger

The limited government and freedom envisioned in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution have been obliterated. From Jacob G. Hornberger at fff.org

Americans who celebrated the Fourth of July in 1880 were celebrating a concept of freedom that is opposite to the concept of freedom that Americans today celebrate on the Fourth.

The freedom that 1880 Americans celebrated was a society in which there was which there was no income taxation, no mandatory charity, no government management or regulation of economic activity, no immigration controls, no systems of public (i.e., government) schooling, no Federal Reserve System, no paper money, no punishment for drug offenses, and no Pentagon, CIA, or NSA, no wars in faraway lands, no secret surveillance, no torture, no assassination, and no indefinite detention.

The “freedom” that Americans today celebrate is one in which there is Social Security, Medicare, education grants, farm subsidies, and other mandatory-charity programs, government management and regulation of economic activity, immigration controls, public (i.e., government) schooling, the Federal Reserve, paper money, punishment for possessing, distributing, or ingesting unapproved substances, a massive military establishment consisting of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA, and forever wars, secret surveillance, torture,  assassination, and indefinite detention.

Thing about that: Two opposite systems and yet people under both systems celebrating their freedom. Something is clearly not right with this picture.

The Declaration of Independence set forth the ideal: All people have been endowed by nature and the Creator with certain unalienable rights — that is, rights that cannot be taken away or destroyed by anyone, including one’s own government. In fact, as the Declaration points out, the purpose of government is to protect the exercise of these rights, not infringe upon or destroy them.

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The Myth of Independence Day, by Andrew J. Napolitano

The government envisioned by the framers doesn’t exist. From Andrew J. Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

The Declaration of Independence — released on July 4, 1776 — was Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece. Jefferson himself wrote much about it in essays and letters during the 50 years that followed.

Not the least of what he wrote offered his view that the Declaration and the values that it articulated were truly radical — meaning they reflected 180-degree changes at the very core of societal attitudes in America. The idea that farmers and merchants and lawyers could secede from a kingdom and fight and win a war against the king’s army was the end result of the multigenerational movement that was articulated in the Declaration and culminated in the American Revolution.

The two central values of the Declaration are the origins of human liberty and the legitimacy of popular government.

When Jefferson wrote that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, he was referring to the natural law. The natural law teaches that right and wrong can be discerned and truth discovered by the exercise of human reason, independent of any commands from the government. The natural law also teaches that our rights come from our humanity — not from the government — and our humanity is a gift from our Creator.

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It’s Time to Declare Your Independence from Tyranny, America, by John W. Whitehead

The founding fathers never would have put up with the crap we put up with from our government. From John W. Whitehead at rutherford.org:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”—Thomas Paine, December 1776

It’s time to declare your independence from tyranny, America.

For too long now, we have suffered the injustices of a government that has no regard for our rights or our humanity.

Too easily pacified and placated by the pomp and pageantry of manufactured spectacles (fireworks on the Fourth of July, military parades, ritualized elections, etc.) that are a poor substitute for a representative government that respects the rights of its people, the American people have opted, time and again, to overlook the government’s excesses, abuses and power grabs that fly in the face of every principle for which America’s founders risked their lives.

We have done this to ourselves.

Indeed, it is painfully fitting that mere days before the nation prepared to celebrate its freedoms on the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the City Council for Charlottesville, Virginia—the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration—voted to do away with a holiday to honor Jefferson’s birthday, because Jefferson, like many of his contemporaries, owned slaves. City councilors have opted instead to celebrate “Liberation and Freedom Day” in honor of slaves who were emancipated after the Civil War.

This is what we have been reduced to: bureaucrats dithering over meaningless trivialities while the government goosesteps all over our freedoms.

Too often, we pay lip service to those freedoms, yet they did not come about by happenstance. They were hard won through sheer determination, suffering and sacrifice by thousands of patriotic Americans who not only believed in the cause of freedom but also had the intestinal fortitude to act on that belief. The success of the American revolution owes much to these men and women.

In standing up to the British Empire and speaking out against an oppressive regime, they exemplified courage in the face of what seemed like an overwhelming foe.

Indeed, imagine living in a country where armed soldiers crash through doors to arrest and imprison citizens merely for criticizing government officials.

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Hollow Words, by Eric Peters

The Declaration of Independence embodied a concept of federalism, with the states being independent sovereigns, that is now a dead letter. From Eric Peters at theburningplatform.com:

We go through the motions – often, because it’s the easiest thing to do. Inertia. We celebrate anniversaries without meaning. Wedding days in marriages gone cold.

And, of course, the Fourth.

That vapid day is coming ‘round again. People will drink beer and cook out and go through the motions. Some will launch illicit fireworks – real ones being mostly illegal now.

But only a cognitively dissonant American celebrates his “freedom” – which for the record isn’t even what the day is supposed to commemorate.

Read the words penned on that yellowed piece of parchment drafted by Massa Tom sometime. Few apparently do anymore. It is the “Unanimous Declaration of the ThirteenUnited States of America.”

Not the Declaration of the (redacted) United States of America. It is an important distinction.

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It Says That? 6/25/16

From the United States Declaration of Independence (1776):

….

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 to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security….

In Search of Monsters, by Robert Gore

Since antiquity, philosophers have posited some form of government as the endpoint of man’s political evolution. Plato thought a state run by philosopher-kings was the ideal. Karl Marx said communism was the final stop. Frances Fukuyama has argued that Western liberal democracy is optimal. However, these and other formulations amount to bets against the historical record, a wager that a player batting .000 will hit a home run in his next at bat. The very idea that mankind will march to some sort of static culmination ignores the immutably dynamic relationship between government and the governed, occasionally beneficial but usually destructive. All governments fail, because humans are human.

Bad governments are overthrown by internal or external forces. A prosperous, free, and peaceful polity living under a relatively good government—a historical rarity—contains the seeds of its own destruction. There will be those who have more by dint of honest achievement, and they will be envied by those who have less. There are always more of the latter than the former, consequently, government officials can garner political advantage, not to mention divert wealth to themselves, by validating and enforcing the latter’s spurious claims. Such larceny puts a good government on the road to becoming a bad, and ultimately, a failed government.

The spreading pools of welfare-state red ink portend widespread bankruptcy. Even as their fiscal foundations rot, the US and European model of redistributionist, increasingly indebted, democracy-driven, central-bank aided, unsustainable profligacy and vote-buying is held out as a model for the rest of the world. When regimes are changed at the behest of the US-European axis, it imposes most of its own creaky apparatus of governance on the countries suffering under its beneficence. Constitutions are drafted, representative legislative and executive branches established, a court system erected to protect newly won “rights,” and elections conducted in nations that have been ruled by autocrats and dictators for centuries. Oddly, it is deemed a matter of some urgency that client states adopt one of the axis’s signal failures: central banking.

Axis politicians and opinion-makers maintain the superiority of their model even for nations outside the ambit of the axis, arguing with no evidence that the oppressed people in such jurisdictions would adopt the axis model root and branch…if only they had a chance. Protests that the oppressed might like iPhones, Hollywood, social media, and western lifestyles, but not buy into western-style governance, are brushed aside. Millions of Chinese regularly demonstrate their rabidly nationalistic fervor for the Chinese regime on the internet and other media. They all can’t be government-sponsored trolls, so westerners dismiss them as brainwashed. Vladimir Putin has the support of 85 percent of Russians, but, it is asserted, that will fade quickly when NATO arms the Ukrainian government and body bags are shipped back to the Russia. (The USSR lost 18 million in WW II and Stalin’s popular support never cratered, but committed regime changers never let the historical record stand in the way of their rhetoric.) Under Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore transformed itself from colonial backwater to a prosperous, gleaming, modern city. He was an autocrat who ran a one party state and never fully embraced civil liberties, but Singaporeans recently gave him a hero’s funeral and send off.

The logic of the superior political system—the supposed utopian end point of political progress—parallels the logic of the superior religion. Adherents of either hold that because their belief is superior, they have every right to impose it, by force if necessary, on those who believe in the inferior, for their own good. There is actually no need to distinguish between the political and religious; today’s unshakeable belief—call it faith—in salvation through the former matches any found in the latter, and is just as impervious to logic or empirical contradiction.

And empirical contradiction is rife. Imposing democracy on Iraq had two foreseeable consequences: the majority Shiites would dominate the government, to the detriment of the minority Sunnis and Kurds, and the government would move closer to the Shiite theocracy in next-door Iran. Beyond dispute both have happened, which should not bother true believers in Western liberal democracy. After all, these are the consequences of enfranchising Iraqis and allowing them to vote in fair and free elections; they are determining their own course. That course does bother the US government, which exposes the hypocrisy of the export democracy movement. The government did not build one of its largest and most fortified embassies in the world in Baghdad to promote superior governance and the protection of civil liberties and minority rights. That embassy is an anchor of US interests, not just in Iraq, but for the entire Middle East.

The important test for a government is not how well or fairly it governs, but how well it toes the US line. The former is only relevant if it impinges on the latter. The Obama administration backed the replacement of democratically elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki when he proved unable to stem the Islamic State advance last year. Nobody has raised an official objection for decades concerning the repressive, undemocratic practices of the governments of our Sunni Arab allies in the region, but our government constantly carps about the same practices by our enemy, Shiite Iran, and has imposed sanctions since the 1979 revolution.

Regime change in the name of democratic nation building has proven a costly farce, but regime change because our government doesn’t like the leader of the regime in question has been even more tragic. It can be argued that it started with unsuccessful efforts to get rid of Fidel Castro. (Indeed, there are suspicions of an ultimate backfire; Castro may have had a hand in the Kennedy assassination.) There was an element of the personal in the second Iraqi invasion; Saddam Hussein had tried to assassinate George W. Bush’s father. The US joined a successful disposal of Libyan henchman Muammar Gaddafi, but Libya was ripped apart and civil war, terrorism, and anarchy now plague the once stable, if repressively governed, country.

President Obama, clearly overmatched, does not like Vladimir Putin, and that may be behind US maneuvers in Ukraine. The US backed the overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected president, but the costs, in blood and treasure, of any full-scale US military incursion would dwarf those of our Middle Eastern follies and probably end in disaster. Cooler heads have prevailed, so far, but there is widespread antipathy towards Putin, and a not insubstantial element of our government that would like to “take him out.” This is a pipe dream of the same magnitude as “reordering” the Middle East.

Back on Independence Day, 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams gave a long speech to the House of Representatives, made even longer because he read the entire text of the Declaration of Independence. The representatives were privileged to hear one of the most important speeches in history.

Adams had his own vision of the perfect government: the one proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence.

It was the first solemn declaration by a nation of the only legitimate foundation of civil government. It was the corner stone of a new fabric, destined to cover the surface of the globe. It demolished at a stroke the lawfulness of all governments founded upon conquest. It swept away all the rubbish of accumulated centuries of servitude. It announced in practical form to the world the transcendent truth of the unalienable sovereignty of the people. It proved that the social compact was no figment of the imagination; but a real, solid, and sacred bond of the social union. From the day of this declaration, the people of North America were no longer the fragment of a distant empire, imploring justice and mercy from an inexorable master in another hemisphere. They were no longer children appealing in vain to the sympathies of a heartless mother; no longer subjects leaning upon the shattered columns of royal promises, and invoking the faith of parchment to secure their rights. They were a nation, asserting as of right, and maintaining by war, its own existence. A nation was born in a day.

An ardent abolitionist, Adams knew the Declaration was a statement of an ideal, not realized fact, but the ideal was the one for which mankind had to strive.

It will be acted o’er, fellow-citizens, but it can never be repeated. It stands, and must forever stand alone, a beacon on the summit of the mountain, to which all the inhabitants of the earth may turn their eyes for a genial and saving light, till time shall be lost in eternity, and this globe itself dissolve, nor leave a wreck behind. It stands forever, a light of admonition to the rulers of men; a light of salvation and redemption to the oppressed. So long as this planet shall be inhabited by human beings, so long as man shall be of social nature, so long as government shall be necessary to the great moral purposes of society, and so long as it shall be abused to the purposes of oppression, so long shall this declaration hold out to the sovereign and to the subject the extent and the boundaries of their respective rights and duties; founded in the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Five and forty years have passed away since this Declaration was issued by our fathers; and here are we, fellow-citizens, assembled in the full enjoyment of its fruits, to bless the Author of our being for the bounties of his providence, in casting our lot in this favored land; to remember with effusions of gratitude the sages who put forth, and the heroes who bled for the establishment of this Declaration; and, by the communion of soul in the reperusal and hearing of this instrument, to renew the genuine Holy Alliance of its principles, to recognize them as eternal truths, and to pledge ourselves and bind our posterity to a faithful and undeviating adherence to them.

The Declaration announced the principles of just government, for time and all eternity. A later paragraph is the most philosophically substantial: an elucidation of the Declaration’s foundational premises and an exposition of the policies towards other nations that necessarily follow from those premises.

And now, friends and countrymen, if the wise and learned philosophers of the older world, the first observers of mutation and aberration, the discoverers of maddening ether and invisible planets, the inventors of Congreve rockets and shrapnel shells, should find their hearts disposed to inquire, what has America done for the benefit of mankind? let our answer be this–America, with the same voice which spoke herself into existence as a nation, proclaimed to mankind the inextinguishable rights of human nature, and the only lawful foundations of government. America, in the assembly of nations, since her admission among them, has invariably, though often fruitlessly, held forth to them the hand of honest friendship, of equal freedom, of generous reciprocity. She has uniformly spoken among them, though often to heedless and often to disdainful ears, the language of equal liberty, equal justice, and equal rights. She has, in the lapse of nearly half a century, without a single exception, respected the independence of other nations, while asserting and maintaining her own. She has abstained from interference in the concerns of others, even when the conflict has been for principles to which she clings, as to the last vital drop that visits the heart. She has seen that probably for centuries to come, all the contests of that Aceldama, the European World, will be contests between inveterate power, and emerging right. Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

Humans have rights because they are human. They are not gifts begrudgingly and only partially wrested from reluctant sovereigns—the British precedent—nor are they a matter of divine favor; they are “inextinguishable rights of human nature,” and they are “the only lawful foundations of government.” Among other nations, America has spoken “the language of equal liberty, equal justice, and equal rights.” But America can only remain America, “But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy,” today the best known sentence from this speech. It is the quintessentially “realist” foreign policy resting on an unassailably idealistic rationale. America must lead by example, not force, for upon becoming the “dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.” The Declaration’s light would be extinguished in the land of its birth.

And so it has been. Surveying the wreckage, both home and abroad, of the government’s quest “in search of monsters to destroy,” can anyone doubt the wisdom and prescience of Adam’s words?

WHEN AMERICA WAS “THE RULER OF HER OWN SPIRIT’

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