Liddick: Spend a little time with the Declaration
This coming Sunday will commemorate the 234th anniversary of our existence as an independent country. In addition to the customary bacchanalia of fried chicken, hot dogs, potato salad and fireworks, might I suggest spending a little time with the document that started it all – our Declaration of Independence?
In it, our Founding Fathers speak plainly to us about what they believe, what they value, and what they find worthy of opposing – even at the cost of their lives. You might find it absorbing – and a little disquieting.
The Declaration is really a two-part document. The first, you will discover, is a statement of principles. This is where most people spend their time, and where most of the argument about meaning and intent takes place thanks to the tactic of deconstruction, which allows the modern analyst to invent meanings undreamed-of by the authors. It’s unnecessary and divisive, but I suppose it does sell books.
In their introduction, the Founders appropriated and distilled the political philosophy of John Locke. They asserted that rights were not bestowed on the people by government, but were instead indwelling by the very fact of our humanity. True rights could be ignored, but never taken away – and the government that ignored them did so at its peril: Since government is the product of a contract among people for the protection of these rights, it can be changed if it becomes an impediment or threat. This thought is a cornerstone of the foundation of the United States.
And yes, God is present at the creation of our country – twice. Read it for yourself.
As disputatious as the opening of the Declaration has become, it isn’t the longer of the two sections. The bulk of the document is – as one might assume of the product of a group of practical men with legal training – a bill of indictment against George III. Not much attention is paid to this part, but it ought to be: these are the wrongs the Founders considered deadly.
At the top of the list of complaints about the king are:
• “He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”
• “He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance…”
Both these are followed by repeated complaints concerning George III’s neglect of colonial laws, and his blank refusal to enforce them.
Further along are:
• “He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” and a related complaint about inciting violence domestically, and on the frontier.
All of which have an eerie familiarity in view of the Federal Government’s refusal to enforce the law against illegal immigration, deciding instead to prosecute the state of Arizona for passing a law “…necessary for the public good” in this regard. And perhaps in light of the Department of Labor’s restated insistence that illegal workers be paid minimum wage.
The Declaration also excoriated the king for creating “a multiple of new offices,” and for sending “… swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” I leave it to you to decide whether the EPA or the IRS best fits this description.
George III also got blamed for “Creating new taxes without our consent.” Did you hear that, Governor Ritter? And I’m fairly certain Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have cared if you called it a “fee” or not, no matter what Chief Justice Mullarkey and her cronies had to say.
The list finishes with the complaint that “… our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” Which sounds a bit like dismissing those who “peaceably assemble … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” as “Astroturf,” or “tea baggers.” Or again, punishing states who insist the Federal government follow its own laws.
Today there is much argument over the use of the Declaration of Independence in determining what our government should act like, and be. There shouldn’t be. If our Constitution can be considered the blueprint for the United States, so the Declaration might be seen as the artists’ conception; both are important in determining whether we are still the nation we were founded to be, or whether we have wandered from the original idea – and if so, how far. This Fourth of July, read it for yourself, and decide.
Does our government increase taxation without consent? Does it acknowledge and respect laws made to address pressing circumstances, and the protection of its citizens? Does it restrain the growth of “offices?” Does it respect the opinions of its constituent citizens? Does it encourage domestic concord and peace? Or not?
Then act accordingly.
Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, comment on this column at
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