How many times have we heard members of the Liberal/Progressive/Democrat (LPD) intelligentsia tell us that the Constitution is a living document, and we must interpret it to reflect (their view, naturally) of modern societal norms?
It is peculiar that the Constitution has been singled out as a living document, while the Declaration of Independence has not. Needless to say, the Federalist Papers are totally ignored, even though they have always been, and remain, the best source for determining what the founders actually intended when they wrote the Constitution.
In contrast, LPDs treat the Declaration of Independence as Holy Writ, though. At least certain, select, out of context passages. For instance, the part that says “…that all men are created equal…” is a particular favorite, and is used over and over to justify the LPD goal of equality of result, rather than simply equality of opportunity. The phrase is used to validate the expansion of governmental power to right perceived wrongs, to give aid to certain population groups that are perceived as underachieving, and to allow the federal government to collectively act like Mary Poppins (without the sugar to make the medicine go down easier).
But the Declaration is more than a statement of an idealized political philosophy. It was not written to be a thought experiment for discussion over coffee in the Harvard faculty lounge. It is a justification for rebellion against a nation-state. The first paragraph jumps right into it when it states that the founders are notifying not only England, but the entire world that they are going to “…dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them…” to England.
The second paragraph, which coincidentally contains the “all men are created equal” phrase, is an incredibly succinct description of the relationship between the governed and those who govern. All people have inalienable rights. These rights can not be taken away from them, since they are granted by God, not man. Governments are thus created by men and will be sustained only with their consent.
As poetic as “all men are created equal” certainly is, the critical passage in the Declaration reads:
…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
In short, whenever the current government tries to trample over those rights which are inalienable, citizens not only have a right to eliminate that government, they have a duty, an unadulterated obligation, to do so. And not just for the benefits that accrue to those living today, but for “future security.”
Jefferson then goes on to enumerate twenty-seven specific actions by the British Crown that usurped the inalienable rights of his fellow Americans.
In reviewing the Declaration in light of the current state of American political affairs, there are striking similarities between the administration of George III and that of our current President, and the leaders in both the House and Senate.
In the Declaration it accuses George III of the following:
“He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
“For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent…”
“For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury…”
“…suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.”
The main stream media has been remiss in not noting, in very bold print, that we are currently suffering huge increases in government payrolls and headcount, and that the recent health care legislation has authorized up to 16,000 new IRS agents to enforce it. There may be a question as to whether or not 16,000 government parasites should collectively be referred to as a swarm, but the word will be adequate for now.
The recently passed health care legislation contains massive direct and indirect taxes, and was opposed by a clear majority of our fellow citizens, who were fully aware of the significance of the law and its provisions. The TARP program, the “Cash for Clunkers” initiative, the so-called Stimulus, and the most recent “Jobs Bill” are funded by borrowing, so the administration and Congress can be technically truthful when they say that these things did not result in an increase of current tax levels. That is technically true. But only technically, since repayment of those loans will result in future tax increases. The growth of the Tea Party movement shows that none of these inevitable tax increases have the consent of the governed.
The Health Care legislation imposes penalties for failure to purchase federally mandated health insurance policies. These penalties are levied based on the behavior of individual citizens, not as a general levy supported by contributions from all citizens. These penalties will be assessed by the IRS, without benefit of trial by jury.
As for “suspending our legislatures”, Washington regularly issues mandates for all states, blithely ignoring the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. And in those instances where any of the States choose to function as if the Tenth Amendment actually meant what it says, the Federal Government threatens to cut off funds for that State.
The final portion of the Declaration that is worth noting in the context of the 21st Century is this:
“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Petitioning for redress appears to be exactly what the Tea Party movement is doing. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of citizens have peaceful protested to the arrogant, contemptuous political leadership of our nation for over a year without result, other than insults, slurs and charges of racism, sexism, mental deficiency, homophobia and being potentially violent terrorists. It might be accurate to describe that sort of response as “repeated injury.”
The LPDs have treated the Declaration as Holy Writ for their purposes. It’s time for those who oppose the wholesale expansion of the government to respond to it for what it really is. It is a source of grievances akin to those enumerated by Jefferson in 1776. And those grievances should lead to a new Declaration. A declaration that the citizens of the United States intend to reclaim their rights and liberties, and free their country from any politician who acts in such a way as to “define a Tyrant” and is “unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”