Skip to comments.Does the Declaration of Independence Tell the Truth? (How are these truths "self-evident" ?)
Posted on 07/04/2010 7:03:36 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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;...
They weren't self-evident to George Washington when he was busy buying and lording over his slaves. He didn't give it a second thought until some of his wiser buddies started educating him a little bit. He came around by the time he died, and freed his slaves in his will, after he didn't need them anymore.
Go read a book.
I agree. What this person doesn’t know about Washington is amazing. George Washington was known for buying slaves from others so that their families wouldn’t be seperated, so that the slaves wouldn’t be whipped to death. Slavery was a sign of the times and couldn’t have been changed by one individual but Washington worked to change the situation.
What if the founders were wrong about this? What if "these truths" are not "self evident" to all men?
As I've gotten older, I've come to the realization that many ideas, ways of thinking, that I grew up believing were shared by everyone, are anything but universal. I don't mean "belief in G-d" here. I mean things like a belief in truth. In the concept of truth. In the concept of reality. In the concept of causality, that if you do "X," that "Y" must necessarily follow. And it's corollary; that if "Y" happens to you, it is probably because you did "X" last month, or yesterday, or three seconds ago.
These ideas are held by many in America and around the world, but the number of people who do not hold them is shockingly large, and seems to be growing.
I disagree with Ayn Rand on some fundamental aspects of her philosophy, but she was right about this one when she wrote "man is the only creature that has to make a conscious choice, every day, whether or not to be human."
That has nothing to do with what I'm saying. The question is whether or not our inalienable rights are self-evident. It's a historical fact that they weren't, even at the time the words were written.
Actually, they weren't. Not to everyone. Washington came around, but he needed to be educated on the subject.
Your alter ego, Patrick Henry opposed the Constitution in large part because he felt it presented a threat to southern “property.”
Just because various people have violated the inalienable rights of others doesn’t mean they aren’t self-evident. It means they’re not self-enforcing. People, being fallible, can and do go against things they know to be obviously true (self-evident), as any smoker, drinker, or adventure sport participant can attest.
I don't have any quarrel with rich people. I'm not arguing for equal outcomes. Where did I say that? It's obvious, however, that slavery was a complete violation of "freedom to do." And I'm not arguing against our rights. I'm simply pointing out that history shows quite clearly those rights were not self-evident.
That’s true. He was a typical Virginia slaver.
That's true. It doesn't mean they are, either. In Washington's case, from my reading, it appears he had no qualms whatsoever about slavery for the first half of his life. It was only later, at the prodding of others, that he began to see the light. Up until that point, his slaves were his property and he dealt with them as such. They were a notch above mules.
It’s actually a very interesting question—are human rights self-evident. I used to ask the same question the opposite way—how do we know slavery is wrong. Prove it. Why shouldn’t the strong rule the weak? I’m not saying I favor such a scheme (it’s not in my self-interest), but how does one prove that rights exist, or that they are self-evident. It’s easy to proclaim them, but try proving it.
“They’re complaining about the deficit.” As are most Democrats that are complaining about their own Party and their spending habits in the government.
You compare the thinking of Washington’s days to the thinking of today. That’s like comparing Ancient Romes thinking to today. Doesn’t work. If it did, our education over the centuries doesn’t mean a thing.
You don’t have a clue. The philosophy of Creator given, self evident rights derived by man’s right reason began with Aristotle, followed by Cicero, Aquinas, Locke and others.
It is the abandonment of Natural Rights that is the adoption of tyranny.
Which proves my point--that the inalienable rights proclaimed in the DoI were not at that time self-evident. I'm not chastising Washington. Just observing the fact that human rights were not self-evident.
If they were not self evident, why did dozens of educated men say they were?
To justify treason against the Crown.
I think what our founders were saying about inalienable rights being self-evident, is that through the centuries they were being ignored. This was the first time that a country actually put them in writing so that a nation could be formed around those ideals.
Only Huck would take time away from p!ssing on our Constitution to do the same to our Declaration on Independence Day.
It is of no importance whether any one particular person or group of persons believe the "truths" to be "self evident". The Declaration states "WE hold these truths ..." (emphasis on WE).
In other words - the signatories to the Delcaration were stating quite clearly that THEY believed that the truths were unable to be contradicted and thus, for them, something worth fighting for!
Most people forget what the Declaration really was - it was the justification of the signatories as to WHY they sought independence from England - in hopes that other nations (mostly France) would come to thier aid.
We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life physical, intellectual, and moral life.
But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.
Life, faculties, production in other words, individuality, liberty, property this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.
What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.
Each of us has a natural right from God to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right its reason for existing, its lawfulness is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force for the same reason cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.
Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?
If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all. - Frederic Bastiat 1801-1850
So, according to you, not only were Washington, Jay, Hamilton, Madison, etc, rogues and liars, but all of the brave men who signed their possible death warrant in July 1776 as well.
Why are you complaining about Washington, not Jefferson - since Jefferson wrote the Declaration and owned slaves until he died?
"That has nothing to do with what I'm saying."
It is interesting to me that you don't dispute Jacquerie's accusation that you are using a "leftist non-argument". You don't deny it's a leftist opinion at all. You simply say "That has nothing to do with what I'm saying".
I dismissed it out of hand.
So let me ask you this:
Did you wake up this morning and say, “Hey, it’s Independence Day! I think I’ll go on FR and badmouth the Founding Fathers!” Why don’t you go burn a flag while you’re at it.
I think that the intent of people doing this is not to try and understand our Founders but to tear our country apart by tearing apart the Constitution and the DoI and the Founding Fathers. No matter what they say, it does not change the fact that the Constitution and the DoI is there and will stay there. Their comments won’t change that.
Have Huck go to a local Rodeo and burn a flag. Then watch what happens. Huck, I’m sure, has seen Cowboy and Indian wars, I doubt he has see Cowboy and Flag Burner wars.
Thanks for the very nicely stated correction to a basic premise of my statement. You are right, of course.
If the truths "WE hold" are not self-evident to a majority of voters in a democracy (or even a Republic such as we are in the process of transitioning away from), then it's inevitable that the freedoms we've enjoyed under our Constitution will pass away.
In my estimation, I always thought it meant it was obvious to anyone with a calibrated moral compass and some common sense, that the "truths" were a simple judgement of knowing right vs. wrong. It's not rocket science, political correctness, or word-parsing propoganda that is self-evident; it's common sense.
Because their arguments couldn't work unless they claimed it.
Just to be clear: the claim of self-evidence was not applied to the rights themselves, but the fact that they were granted by a Creator.
This is a very important point: those principles held out as unalienable rights, cannot be derived from first principles, nor from observation of the natural world.
In many or most respects, among humans or among any other combination of species, the world seems to operate very nicely on a principle of Might Makes Right.
So how does one arrive at the opposite pole that people, individually, have rights? One invokes a Creator Who makes a rule like that. (As it happens, I believe this to be true.)
Ayn Rand's philosophy collapses on this point, in that she attempted to derive the unalienable rights apart from a creator; but she failed. In effect, she was forced to put herself, and her own assertions, into the same Creator role that she had so stridently rejected.
The bottom line, though, is that those unalienable rights don't simply spring up like laws of nature. They have to come from somewhere -- to be asserted.
"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. . . . All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few, booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others; for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them." - Thomas Jefferson to Roger C. Weightman, 24 June 1826, Ford, Vol. 10, 390-392
Today, a "favored few," "booted and spurred," and steeped in an ideology that is foreign to liberty, have seized temporary power in Washington, D. C. They must be reminded that "We, the People's" Constitution limits their power to ride, rough shod, over the Creator-endowed rights of American citizens.
May we "refresh our recollection" of the Founders' ideas and give "undiminished devotion to them" on this Fourth of July!
Our Framers authored the most perfect governing document ever devised and some here at FR wish to destroy it.
Simple question with a simple answer. We hold these truths to be self-evident, thats how.
In the context of the Declaration of Independence hold means to have and maintain control over.
I think the founders expected some would disagree that all men are created equal, and so forth. The "We hold" part of "We hold these points to be self-evident" is simply an assertion of the rock bottom they were going to build the rest of their statement upon. In other words, they weren't going to argue whether or not all men are created equal, have the right to life and liberty. They ASSERTED it as their belief, claimed "self evident", with no philosophical argument or support, and proceeded to announce they were rejecting the authority of the government that was in power, and that they would fight to sustain that rejection, and establish a new government that suited their principles.
I think the rights are self evident when using a Christian paradigm-—Do unto others, etc. What you are referring to is the ambiguity in the classification. If you don’t classify slaves as human beings, (kind of like how the liberals classify babies in the womb—globs of cells)—there are no human rights ascribed.
Slavery was accepted in all societies at that time and still is in parts of Africa, Asia and Middle East. Christianity was the driving force in getting rid of slavery and is now, in getting rid of abortion.
Big Deal. Some of the founders were abolitionists, and some owned slaves. The word men obviously meant different things to different people. For the abolitionists, it was self-evident that slavery had to go.
Quite clever, actually to use the term men, and eventually, the country redefined the term to include slaves. Women and children too were treated somewhat as property. This too has been rectified in the law.
The fact that some of the signatories were slave owners, does not negate the awesome principles contained in the Declaration of Independence. Our history is one of trying to form a “more perfect union”.
That is was not perfect then or now simply means we need to continue to improve. Man is not perfect, and we will never have perfection on this earth, only in heaven. All men have feet of clay. So what?
Technically, it is self evident that one cannot take his life, and animate a dead person to life (or health, etc.) Life is "inalienable," it cannot be traded from one person to another.
Likewise "pursuit of happiness," or protection from the mobs, hoards and barbarians, depends on some sort of banding together for common defense. There might be a need for some discussion on that point, but the general idea that governments are erected to protect property rights, or function to protect property rights, and that personal happiness is somewhat tied to property rights, is controversial to a very small segment of humanity. But whatever the government/property/individual situation one finds oneself it, you can't swap it with the situation of a different person.
What has historically been true, and is true now, is that governments are self-serving, and the powerful people in government work more to fool the worker bees than to serve the worker bees. As long as the worker bees THINK they are free, the powerful maintain their elevated social standing over the weaker. One need not be a king in title, to be a king in practical fact.
Where did I do that?
This question is the reason that I scoff at assertions that the Founding Fathers were not guided by Judeo-Christian principles and ethics. How else could such concepts find their way into the Declaration of Independence and later, the Constitution? Religious faith lies at a deeper level than any nationalist self-identity; it is clear that Jefferson was reaching for that in *teaching* the people with his words. Showing them that their faith was at odds with King George was key to the rebellion's success.
The existence of rights that are derived from our Maker need not be proved. It's like faith; either you believe or you do not.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
- John Adams