Skip to comments.Rethinking the Declaration of Independence
Posted on 07/04/2010 12:53:53 PM PDT by Kaslin
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1825 that he intended the Declaration of Independence to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. Yet, he did not propose the Declaration should find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . The last statement is the clearest articulation of what Jefferson and other members of the founding generation thought of the Declaration. It was a restatement of the rights of Englishmen, modeled in large part by previous works of English and American law. The Declaration was not a radical document or a deviation from accepted constitutional norms, as the famous historian Gordon Wood suggests. But the idea that Jefferson and other founders would be modern liberals persists, and that is why Barack Obama can argue with a straight face that he is following the founding documents of the United States. Such thinking needs a radical correction, and a better understanding of the Declaration is the key.
In 1100, King Henry I of England agreed to restrictions on his power through the Charter of Liberties. The English barons rejected absolute authority and sought to preserve traditional decentralized government. Just over one hundred years later, King John was forced again by the English nobles to sign the Magna Charta. The Great Charter, as it is known in English, declared that the king was not above the lawmaking him essentially equal to the noblesand it resisted the trend toward centralization in England. Though on the books, the Magna Charta was often ignored by more powerful English monarchs, but several of its provisions became the basis of English common law, most notably the writ of habeas corpus.
When England erupted in civil war in the seventeenth century, the Parliament asserted its authority, and by 1688 had become the driving force behind English law and policy. When King James II was expelled from England in 1688, the Parliament forced the incoming monarch, William of Orange, to sign the English Bill of Rights. It condemned James II for violating the rights of Englishmen, what the Parliament called the laws and liberties of this kingdom, and placed restrictions on the powers of the monarch. Jefferson essentially copied the form of the English Bill of Rights in writing the Declaration. Thus, Jeffersons indictment of King George III was not a radical departure from accepted English practices. He was following English tradition, which in turn he adapted to American circumstances. This formed the American tradition, a conservative rather than radical tradition.
Additionally, Jefferson borrowed language from George Masons Virginia Declaration of Resolves in drafting the Declaration. Mason asserted that all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights namely the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and maintaining happiness and safety. Jefferson altered this in his original draft to We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By equal, Jefferson meant that all citizens or freeholders are, as Mason wrote, born equally free and independent under the law. The barons of England asserted their legal equality with the king in 1100 and 1215. Jefferson was not stating anything new. And Jefferson simply shortened Masons languagewhich he borrowed from John Lockes 1689 publication Two Treatises on Civil Government¬to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone understood that Jefferson equated happiness with property and safety.
Another famous historian, Joseph Ellis, contends that Jefferson viewed government as an alien force. But Jefferson never used that term. He argued that the colonists had suffered patiently under a long train of abuses and usurpations and an absolute Despotism. Thus, it was their right and duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security. This had been done countless times in human history, and as recently as 1689 in England. Jefferson did not think the English system of government was tyrannical, and in particular did not denounce Virginia colonial government, only the present King of Great Britain, George III, deserved condemnation. Government had an obligation, in his words, to protect the safety and happiness of the people. That is not an anti-government view, but of course, Jefferson believed there should be limits on government power and, most importantly, the size and scope of government.
The Declaration of Independence did not create the United States. Jefferson called it the united States, or simply the States united. Virginia and Maryland both separately declared their independence from Great Britain, with Virginia doing so over a month before the Declaration was ratified in the Continental Congress. The colonies became FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES. Jefferson made a conscious decision to choose the word State. A State, in the 18th century, was a sovereign political entity. In the same document, Jefferson called Great Britain a State. Thus, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, or any other American State, were equal to the mother country. They were not shires, parishes, counties, or provinces subservient to a united States government. The Declaration, then, is a decentralizing document, and the first governing document of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, reaffirmed that fact.
Most people mistake centralization as a conservative tendency. Human history proves otherwise. Centralization, whether political, cultural, or religious, does not conserve anything but the imperial traits of the centralizers, whether Marxists, theocratic zealots, or something else. Religions, cultures, customs, conventions, constitutions, economies, etc. are often ruined by the centralizers, and thus, centralization is always a progressive trend, not a conservative one, and typically the reaction to centralization is a conservative reaction, a push to preserve the culture, customs, or traditions of a particular people or place. Likewise, all empires have broken under the strain of conservative resistance to the imperial order. Jefferson and the men of the founding generation declared their independence to preserve English liberties. It was a decentralized, conservative movement.
Thinking of the Declaration and the War for Independence this way sheds light on who Americans are as a people. They are a naturally conservative group who love liberty and who are also inclined to preserve the traditions, customs, and cultures of their communities and families. Most men in the founding generation viewed provincialism as a badge of honor. They were Virginians, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians, Massachusettians, and Marylanders first and foremost and Americans second. They defended the rights of their sister States, but did not want another State, foreign or domestic, interfering in the concerns of their local community. In the rush to force our will on other Americans (or on the world), we forget this lesson. The American tradition, as exemplified by the Declaration of Independence and the founding generation, favors limited, decentralized government that has as its only charge the protection of life, liberty, and property, and the maintenance of the cultures, customs, conventions, and constitutions of the States and local communities. The Declaration did not create new rights, it simply re-affirmed the old, and it is Americas conservative document.
Amen! That last paragraph summed it up real well. It is the anti-thesis of Obama’s way of thinking.
Here’s my 4th of July message for Obama, prominently displayed on my main page at:
“Barack Hussein Obama, hear us, loyal Americans whose bloodlines run deep in this land, back to the founding & beyond, who have watered the ground of this nation & foreign soils to maintain our liberty & constitution: Molon Labe-Sic Semper Tyranus-De Oppresso Liber. Your Marxism shall not stand in this land, so help us God!” - Jeff Head, July 3, 2010
You might want to check out my comprehensive plan for Souhern Border Enforcement too:
Have a great, patriotic 4th all!
I have decided to save this to my harddrive.
How are you doing? Feeling better I hope!
Good to see on the board again
Thanks Kaslin for giving the opportunity to read it.
On the mend. Out of the hospital, but several months of hard physical therapy in front of me.
Thanks for asking.
Thanks, I bookmarked it
On the bend is better than downhill at any rate. Good luck!
Read and heed all you drug warriors and other statists. Freedom means people can do stuff others might find offensive. Liberty means respect for the equal rights of ALL Americans. Even when they do dumb stuff, as long as they don’t violate the rights of others.
"THIS article quotes his own words in regard to his views on Christianity and his statement that he is a Christian. Jefferson's statement is just one of scores of statements made by a great many founding fathers who also stated their devotion to and faith in Jesus Christ. Those men's writings are listed in alphabetical order according to their last names, and are proof that the claims made by so many professors and historians refuting the almost universally accepted facts about the religion of the founding fathers and other famous American historical figures are damnable lies. And IMHO the atheistic, socialistic "scholars" making those false claims know very well that they are nothing less than outright lies.
Prayers up for a happy Independence Day for all Freepers, and especially for those patriotic Americans who are serving our nation in it's armed forces. May OUR Lord Jesus Christ grant all Americans a future USA that is as free and honorable as the nation that those great CHRISTIAN men who we call Founding Fathers hoped and prayed it would be.
Right. Most Americans can quote the preamble, or at least those of my geriatric generation can, but not so many have read the text. The Declaration was the seedbed of the Constitution, the document that laid out the structure of America's government and guaranteed the rights and liberties that the founding fathers and patriots fought and died to secure for their progeny. The same rights and liberties that so many of this current generation seem quite willing to forfeit in exchange for Marxist statism that promises it's deluded adherents a Utopia that it can never deliver.
The question that will puzzle me until my dying day is this; Why on God's green earth would anyone choose "change" from freedom and guaranteed liberties to a dictatorial system of government (Marxism) closely related to slavery? It's incredible to me that anyone who has experienced freedom would make that choice, yet almost 69 million Americans wittingly or unwittingly did just that in November of 2008.
May God deliver America from what I believe are sinister spiritual forces that are now controlling America. Forces that are hell bent on remaking the US into a collectivist, atheistic, perverted "paradise" that the Founding Fathers could not even recognize as the nation for which they gave up virtually everything, including life for many, to found. God will deliver us if America's Christians will confess our sins against His holy laws and unite in prayer for deliverance from the forces that now control our government. We have his promise on that, 2nd Chronicles 7:14. But I don't see that happening, especially not in the thousands of American churches that major on getting wealth, physical healing, and "things" from God instead of asking that His perfect will be done in our individual lives, our society, and our government.
Bump for later reading
What was new was the equality of every man with the nobles and the king. Abolishing nobility was radical. Universal manhood suffrage was radical. Abolishing monarchy and establishing a republic was radical.
Most people mistake centralization as a conservative tendency.
Compared to the anti-federalists who opposed the constitution, our federalist founders favored a strong central government. That is why they wrote the Constitution and got rid of the weak articles of confederation.
The new government was to be strong ONLY as compared to the old one under the Articles of Confederation. It was still meant to be wan, pale and anemic as compared to We, the People, its sole source of legitimate authority. But you are one who LIKES a robust FedGov when it comes to YOUR pet schemes for controlling others, if I recall correctly, and I believe I do!
The federal government was designed to be weak with regard to domestic affairs only to protect the powers of each separate state from federal interference. Laws against dangerous drugs, gambling and prostitution are and should be enforced by the states, unless they are matter of national security. Illegal trafficking of drugs and prostitutes into the country are issues of national security.
I didn’t read any comments on this paragrapgh:
>>The Declaration of Independence did not create the United States. Jefferson called it the united States, or simply the States united. Virginia and Maryland both separately declared their independence from Great Britain, with Virginia doing so over a month before the Declaration was ratified in the Continental Congress. The colonies became FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES. Jefferson made a conscious decision to choose the word State. A State, in the 18th century, was a sovereign political entity. In the same document, Jefferson called Great Britain a State. Thus, Virginia, Massachusetts, New York, or any other American State, were equal to the mother country. They were not shires, parishes, counties, or provinces subservient to a united States government. The Declaration, then, is a decentralizing document, and the first governing document of the United States, the Articles of Confederation, reaffirmed that fact.<<
How does this fit in with those who believe secession is unconstitutional? Especially since secession is not mentioned in the Constitution by word nor as an enumerated power. One could then argue, that under the 10th Amendment, the power to seceede is reserved to the states.
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