Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Breaking Down The Declaration of Independence

  I have heard it said that a good writer writes what they know. Whether or not I am a good writer is questionable. I don't claim to be an expert on the Declaration of Independence but the following is what I know about the Declaration of Independence. Although Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence fifty-six men signed the final document. They were some of the most prominent men in America. A who's who of American patriots. Names like Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, Robert Morris, John Adams, John Hancock, Eldridge Gerry, whose claim to fame is the term gerrymandering. Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Nelson Jr.,whose house I visited while in Yorktown Virginia. Francis Lightfoot Lee, the father of Robert E. Lee. Benjamin Harrison, the ancestor of two future American presidents. Edward Rutledge whose son is buried in City Cemetery in Nashville. John Witherspoon, the ancestor of Reese Witherspoon, and Roger Sherman just to name a few. 

  The Declaration: We hold these truths to be self-evident. My interpretation: The we were these fifty-six men. They all agreed that there were certain truths. There was no rationalization or moral relativism going on here. They all agreed that these truths were self-evident. The definition of self-evident is evident in itself without proof or demonstration; axiomatic. Axiomatic means obvious, or without argument. When you look out and see the sun and the moon in the sky it is self-evident that they are there. The Declaration: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator. My interpretation:  Notice that they acknowledged that we were created by a Creator, a supreme being. They didn't say that we evolved. The Declaration: That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. My interpretation:  John Locke, an English philosopher of the 1600's and probably the greatest influence on the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence did not believe that atheists could even be recognized as legitimate citizens in a society because you had to believe in God. An unalienable or actually inalienable right is a right that can only be given God and therefore it can only be taken away by God. Man or governments cannot legitimately take these rights away from you. If government tries it is guilty of usurpation. If enough of these rights are usurped then that government is guilty of tyranny. In order for this idea of having inalienable rights to work, you must believe in God. 

  These liberals and atheists who want to remove In God We Trust from our money and Under God from our pledge of allegiance are either nuts, grossly ignorant, or grossly indifferent to the truth. They do not recognize that God is the source of their Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness or property as Locke would call it. Atheists cannot legitimately fit into a free society that believes that it's most fundamental rights are given by the God that they do not believe in or as a liberal they are ignorant of this concept of government. As a citizen you are entitled to your life and nobody has a right to deprive you of life, or of liberty. You cannot legally sell yourself into slavery because your liberty was granted to you by God and only he can take it away. So if you cannot sell yourself into slavery then a government cannot legally usurp your freedom or enslave you. We willingly give up our individual freedoms everyday when we allow government to force us to buy medical insurance, or curtail our speech with the passage of hate crimes legislation, or tell us what we can eat or not eat. Restricting our gun rights. Telling our citizens that they are not allowed pray publicly before a sporting event, or to lead prayer in school, to have nativity scenes on the public property or to post the Ten Commandments in government buildings. The courts overruling the will of the people when they vote to ban homosexual marriage, When we give up our basic freedoms we are selling our birthright in the same way that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. The pursuit of happiness or the right of property is one of the things that make Americans exceptional. Most indigenous societies of the world look at property as being communal. In others words that property is owned by no one or that society as a whole is the rightful owner. Americans believe that the individual can own property and that it is a God given right.

  The Declaration:  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. My interpretation:  Philosophers of Locke's era used a theoretical model called a state of nature. In a state of nature man had been created to live in a state of unrestrained liberty. Men can be selfish creatures and some abused these freedoms to the point that the state of nature became chaotic. So, to establish order in a state of nature, men gave up some of their rights in order to secure most of their rights. This is when man established government. In their eyes government was a necessary evil to establish order. In the words of Jefferson the best government was the least government. The Declaration: Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. My interpretation:  For a government to be legitimate it's citizen's must give their consent. There are two forms of consent. Direct and tacit. Those citizens present when our government was formed, such as our Founding Fathers and those citizens living under that revolutionary government gave their direct consent. Those citizens born since our founding are required to give their tacit consent. Tacit consent is given in various ways. Paying taxes, voting, serving in the military, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, serving in political office, and through various other means. The Declaration: 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. My interpretation:  In a state of nature man made a social contract with government. In this contract it was understood mankind was entrusting government to maintain order but the people ultimately held the power. If government usurped rights that it was not entitled to and a case can be made that a state of tyranny exists then the government is in violation of the social contract. The people not only have the right but the duty to alter or abolish that government. This is why the right to bear arms is an inalienable right. The 2nd Amendment is not about the right to hunt. It has two purposes. The right of self defense on a personal level is an inalienable right and the right to alter or abolish government is an inalienable right. An unarmed society can do neither. John Locke said that when the thief enters your home and binds you up he not only has robbed you of your liberty but he has it in his power to rob you of your life. When government becomes the thief you have no one to appeal to but heaven. The right to bear arms is essential to overthrowing a tyrannical government. 

  The Declaration:  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn 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 usurpation's, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is the right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. My interpretation: Revolution is an inalienable right but it should not be done for trivial reasons. If you advocate revolution you must be able to build a case for it. Although I agree with much of what Jefferson said about the role of government, states rights and liberty I think that he was a little radical as to how often we should have revolution. Jefferson said "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. And he also said "I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." However the Declaration, which Jefferson is the primary author of wrote words advocating patience and long suffering here. We must first, like a lawyer, build a case for revolution, and then set about asking for a redress of grievances. Once we have established a case for revolution and we have given government a reasonable time in which to correct their mistakes, but they do not respond satisfactorily to our requests, then we are justified to rebel. If rebellion is successful then we establish new guards in the law to prevent future tyranny. 

  We have only had one serious challenge to our form of government in the over two hundred years of our existence. That was our American Civil War. Many in the South called it the Second American Revolution. In my view however it did not pass the test of a legitimate revolution based on our Declaration of Independence. Many Southerners have argued that the war was about the issue of States Rights rather than slavery. I disagree with this assessment. I challenge anyone to list a single state right that was being denied to the eleven Southern states that eventually seceded. In my view the war was over the issue of slavery. More specifically the expansion of slavery. If you look at the vote to secede in the various Southern States county by county, or by region, the counties and regions that were in mountainous country, primarily the Appalachian mountain range that ran through West Virginia, East Tennessee, northern Alabama, and Northern Georgia, these regions voted against secession because they were poorer areas and because of the mountains the white people owned small farms that they worked themselves and most did not own slaves or if they did they owned less than five on average. The areas of the South that voted for secession were areas that the slave populations was significant. Alexander Stephens, who was the Confederate Vice President, gave his famous Cornerstone speech on March 21, 1861 that revealed what the Confederate cause was really about. At least from the perspective of slave owners and Confederate leaders. 'Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition." The North had bent over backwards to appease the South since our founding. It started with the three-fifths compromise in the American Constitution, Slaves were allowed to be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of determining congressional representation. This also benefited the North at first because slavery was legal in most Northern states when the Constitution was ratified. 

  Then in 1820 a compromise was reached called the Missouri Compromise that allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state. An imaginary line was drawn at the southern border of Missouri. Any new states above that line would be free and below would be slave. Because of the Mexican War and all the new southwest territory ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ending the war new tensions arose because the Southern States were interested in the new territory in order to expand slavery into the southwest Five separate bills were passed that came to be called the Compromise of 1850.The only thing in this compromise that benefited the South was a stronger fugitive slave law which for the short term seemed to appease the South but it enraged many in the North. Then in 1854 Stephen Douglas engineered a bill called the Kansas-Nebraska Act which would allow these two territories, that were North of the Missouri Compromise line to vote slavery up or down through popular vote. This concept was called "popular sovereignty". Again this was an attempt to appease the South but it increased tensions that would ultimately lead to war. Then in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of slavery in the Dred Scott Decision. It ruled that blacks could not be American citizens, so therefore they had no legal standing to sue in Federal court and the Federal government had no power to regulate slavery in the territories. Chief Justice Roger Taney was trying to settle the slave question once and for all but it caused much consternation in the North and was another step toward war. Yet it was just another example of how a branch of the Federal government attempted to appease the South in regards to slavery. After all of these attempts to keep the South in the Union the South ended up seceding anyway. The South was determined to secede if Lincoln was elected. However Lincoln said over and over that he had no intention of interfering with slavery where it already existed. He knew that he had no Constitutional authority to do that. However he did not want slavery to spread into the new territories created by our victory in the Mexican War. The South on the other hand knew that if all of this new territory voted to remain free their power in Congress would shrink considerably. This is what the Civil War was all about and in my view was not a legitimate rebellion based on the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

  The Declaration:  Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpation's, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world. My interpretation: The Declaration here is preparing the Colonists case against the King of England. and it is not necessary to write out the long list of complaints here. If you read the whole Declaration of Independence however you will understand the Patriots case against England. Finally the Declaration ends by declaring our independence from Great Britain. The thought process behind this great document is what sets us apart from all other nations. The philosophy is the product of brilliant minds and in my opinion is blessed by God himself. This is what separates America from all other countries of the world and is the root of American exceptionalism. This exceptionalism has enriched and blessed the entire world, drawing people like a magnet the world over. 


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