Today is the most significant of days in the history of the United States: two hundred thirty-seven years ago, the Second Continental Congress declared independence from Great Britain. Publication of the Declaration of Independence formalized this decision two days later.
The Declaration is divided into three parts: the first, a preamble and statement of principles, draws on the political theory of John Locke; it emphasizes political equality, God-given unalienable rights and a small government of limited and specific purposes. The second part is, as befits a document drafted by lawyers, a bill of indictments against George III. The last and briefest is the formal declaration of independence.
For many decades after 1776, celebration of July Fourth involved not only the consumption of beer and barbecue, not only parades and speeches, but also public readings of the Declaration of Independence. Lately this practice is seeing a bit of a revival — something we all should welcome.
It’s clear from the words of the document itself why public readings excite disquiet among the contemporary political class. The Declaration is clear about the behaviors our Founders found reprehensible, and even a cursory look finds unhealthy echoes today.
“He (George III) has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
One might ask Defense of Marriage Act supporters about the Obama Administration’s failure to defend federal law. Or Arizona, about the Obama Department of Justice’s hostility toward moves the state took out of desperation with federal disinterest in controlling our Southern border.
The administration’s animus might also fall under “suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever…” Which would apply as well to achieving its goals through the Bureaucracy, such as EPA regulators.
“He has obstructed the Administration of Justice…”
Although this complaint had to do with the operation of colonial courts, when the chief executive of the United States says publicly that thus-and-such a person is guilty, it certainly seems like an intrusion into what should be an impartial process. Think about Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the Cambridge police department, or the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman confrontation.
“He has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers, to harass our People and eat out their Substance.”
“Multiple new offices” might resonate with those studying the personnel implications of Obamacare, and the administration of its tax provisions by the Internal Revenue Service. This may not require the 16,500 “new IRS Agents” that some have predicted, but it will certainly require more than a few new hires. Between six and 11,000 is a more probable estimate — which would raise the number of auditors and agents by 30 to 50 percent.
As for harassment: despite attempts at a smokescreen, punishing political opponents was clearly the task of the IRS branch operating under Lois Learner, presently laying low after taking the Fifth in a Congressional hearing. Sarah Hall Ingram, another IRS supervisor at the tax-exempt division, was recently designated the director of the IRS’ Obamacare Program Office, so one should expect this harassment to proliferate to other venues.
“For imposing taxes on us without our consent.”
From the beginning of discussion, we were assured that Obamacare “was not a tax.” Courtesy of Chief Justice John Roberts, we were later told that it is — adding to public disapproval, hovering in the 60 percent range. A March Kaiser Health tracking poll noted that even Democrats share skepticism about what might at best be called a “bait and switch.”
“For depriving us, in many Cases of the Benefits of Trial by Jury.”
Although the Founders would not have been aware of the modern complications leading to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, they were certainly familiar with the phenomenon of secret verdicts issued by secret courts; the usurpations of Britain’s Star Chamber and Admiralty Courts were very much in the minds of those who signed the Declaration. It is a measure of the distance remaining to be covered that such issues are still before us.
“He has excited domestic Insurrections among us…”
This accusation had mostly to do with the British use of native Americans against frontier colonists, but the current Administration’s approval of various attacks on the wealthy and productive members of society doesn’t exactly fit the description of a government created to “insure Domestic tranquility,” to quote another vital document.
So both today and on the Fourth, it behooves us to re-read and consider the words of those who created this country, and to ask ourselves: is our government still worthy of us? And if not, what do we intend to do about it?
Let your legislators hear you. And don’t forget to vote.
Morgan Liddick lives in Summit County. His column appears every Tuesday.