On This Fourth of July, the Declaration of Independence Explained

The Founders risked life and limb for individual liberty, have we forgotten that?

By the Left Coast Rebel

Like everyone here, last week's developments find me deeply disturbed. Like many points in the past several years I fear for not only my safety, liberty and economic freedom, I also fear for the same thing for my family and my loved ones that will live in this land generations from now.

On this point -  just what should we celebrate Independence Day for today, this July 4? Independence from what? From England? Or is it a lot bigger than that (of course it is)...

Randy Barnett, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy points us to an annotated version of the Declaration of Independence, what it means, and what it should mean in an America under the creeeping shadow of an opressive, all-powerful Leviathan government:

The Declaration of Independence used to be read aloud at public gathering every Fourth of July. Today, while all Americans have heard of it, all too few have read more than its second sentence.  Yet the Declaration shows the natural rights foundation of the American Revolution, and provides important information about what makes a constitution or government legitimate. It also raises the question of how these fundamental rights are reconciled with the idea of “the consent of the governed” for which the Declaration is also famous.

Later, the Declaration also assumes increasing importance in the struggle to abolish slavery.  It is a foundational document of the Nineteenth Century abolitionists and was much relied upon by Abraham Lincoln.  It had to be explained away by the Supreme Court in Dred Scott. Eventually, it was repudiated by some defenders of slavery in the South because of its inconsistency with that institution.
To appreciate all that is packed into these two paragraphs, it is useful to break down the Declaration into some of its key claims.

1.  “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”  This first sentence is often forgotten.  It asserts that Americans as a whole (and not as members of their respective colonies) are a distinct “people.”  To “dissolve the political bands” revokes the “social compact” that existed between the Americans and the rest of “the People” of the British commonwealth, which resumes the “state of nature” between Americans and the government of Great Britain, and “the Laws of Nature” are then the standard by which this dissolution and whatever government is to follow are judged.  “Declare the causes” indicates they are publicly stating the reasons and justifying their actions rather than being thieves in the night. The Declaration is like the indictment of a criminal that states the basis of his criminality.  But the ultimate judge of the rightness of their cause will be God, which is why the revolutionaries spoke of an “appeal to heaven”—an expression commonly found on revolutionary banners and flags.   As British political theorist John Locke wrote: “The people have no other remedy in this, as in all other cases where they have no judge on earth, but to appeal to heaven.”

The excerpt above is just a taste of the additional 8 points covered in this excellent post, please read the entire thing this fourth of July and pass it along.

1 comment:

  1. The American Revolution is never really over, because forces of tyranny never quit.

    ReplyDelete

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