I’ve gathered together all the material and information so many of you have sent me these last few days, in response to my article Note to the GOP Establishment: Forget It! I first wish to thank you all for your contributions, as they were from a diversity of sources and yet they all seemed to abide by a set of principles that I believe we can distill down to just a few things. One of the recurrent themes was that we must adhere to our Constitution, and that we must bear in mind the reasons for our founding as expressed in our Declaration of Independence. One of you actually submitted the Declaration and said: “Here, it’s all right here.” Indeed, much of it is, but I think in order to carry our nation forward, and up out of its current morass, we must make clear what it had meant.
Let us begin, again, with our Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Our founders were breaking away from the King, and they were laying out their justifications. They were making a case that we must not ignore, because in many ways, it has become our case too, although there is no official monarchy now oppressing us. Here, they told us something critically important, and I want my readers to pay special heed to it, because we will revisit these concepts repeatedly:
“…the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…“
I should very much like to drill down on this for a moment, in reflection on its explicit meaning, but also its implicit reasoning. “Separate and equal station” means the rights of all men as equals under the law. Which law? The “laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” What does this mean to us, now? It means that our rights are not a gift from the State, but arise from our nature. It also tells us something else: The founders wanted posterity to understand that irrespective of the particulars of a particular faith, or of a lack thereof, we must acknowledge that all people possess these rights because nature demands it, and if you hold God to be the great author of Nature, then you must admit that these natural rights are those of all mankind. In other words, it really doesn’t matter if you believe in God, or not, or which version of God, with respect to various religions, because Nature’s laws lay out what are the rights of people, so that if you believe in a God that created the heavens and the Earth, He also created the laws of nature. Even if you do not believe in a God Almighty, still you must respect the laws of nature. In this way, the great mind who wrote this document was already laying the groundwork for our nation’s eventual basis in fundamental rights in a way that its people could universally agree, irrespective of the particulars of their individual and very diverse faiths.
We may argue yet what are Nature’s Law, but this much we can be certain: All people must observe and ultimately obey it. Since governments are merely fictional entities created by mankind, they too must obey. No government can be permitted special dispensations to ignore Nature’s Law, just as no individual may ultimately ignore it. This is a great basis for law, since it represents the most objective basis upon which mankind can derive a governing philosophy. In their day, the founding fathers and the framers of our Constitution were called “liberals.” This is because they believed in liberalizing governance, and freeing individual men to pursue their own rational self-interests with minimal interference from other men. Let me suggest to you that before we go any farther down this road, we must understand these labels, how their meanings have changed over time, and how we must recapture the language that has been stolen from us.
In the days of our revolution, the “conservatives” were those who did not wish to break free of England and its monarchy. They were adherents of statism, since monarchy is merely another manifestation of the state’s supremacy over individuals. In the very early 20th century, this went through an odd transformation, in that those who were mere “progressives” grabbed the label for their own use. They were in fact a sort of counter-revolution, inasmuch as their policy ideas were intended to undo much of what our founders had put in place. In a burst of Amendments, we got the 16th, establishing the statists’ income tax, the 17th, making the election of Senators by direct majority of the people of the states, thereby silencing the States in the federal government, the 18th, making alcohol illegal(Prohibition,) and the 19th finally giving women the right to vote anywhere in the US where it had been denied to them previously.
For fourteen years, the nation suffered under the idiocy of the 18th Amendment, until it was repealed in 1933 by the 20th. Two of the other three Amendments of the period were equally awful, those being the 16th and 17th, both put into place in 1913 during the Wilson administration’s first year. These two Amendments have done more damage to our nation than any others, even prohibition. The people who put those in place, and carried us into WWI were “progressives,” who were in both parties, but predominately the Democrats, and who were intent upon reversing the ethos of natural law upon which our government had been built. It was after their ideas became known that they beat a hasty escape to the label they appropriated for themselves: “Liberals.” It was at this time that conservatism as we now know it was truly born. Understand with care and attention to detail: Today’s conservatives are the founders’ era’s liberals, and what we today call “Liberals” are in fact nothing but statists, particularly of the leftist persuasion, but nevertheless interested in the supremacy of the state over individual men.
This is a long way of getting back to our discussion, but it needs to be firmly understood: We believe in the supremacy of individual rights over the authority of state. Our founders were exceedingly careful to build a small sphere of authority in which government could, under specific conditions, temporarily ignore the individual rights of people, but these were remarkably limited. Several of you have gone to some lengths to remind me precisely how limited, most frequently in the context of Obamacare, but also with respect to other programs and actions of the federal government. Let us then remember that individual liberties are the cornerstone of our Republic, without which it will fall. Let us now consider the preamble of the Declaration of Independence carefully:
“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. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That 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 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.”
Here, the founders through Jefferson’s mighty pen specified that the aforementioned natural rights are unalienable, and that they were numerous. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a phrase with which we ought all be familiar, but its meaning is lost on many who mouth the words not knowing their full meaning. “Life” seems clear enough, and by “Liberty” they meant a variety of things, but remembering the times, they meant even so basic a notion as the concept of Habeus corpus, that people would not be held indefinitely without charges or trial. Their view of liberty was broad. “Pursuit of Happiness” has been a phrase of some controversy because the inevitable tyrannical minds wish to reduce its meaning, but we can learn much if we understand that this phrase had been “Life, Liberty and Property,” but that property alone had been deemed too narrow a concept. This phrase was chosen not to exclude property rights as some statists will argue, but instead to augment those rights with a good deal more. It was in recognition that men may find happiness in property, but in all manner of things to which they ought properly have a right. Now consider what they told us of the relationship of people to their government:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”
This is very important as a basic tenet of our form of government. Government exists not to rule over Men, but merely to secure their rights. This means that government is to be strictly limited to the role of a policeman, a judge, a prison warden, and a military force. This is what they were explaining to the King who ruled over them, together with the parliament. Government does not exist to fund the ambitions or benevolence of some men at the expense of all others. Having told us the proper function of government, they then tell us what gives cause to changing it:
“That 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 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.”
Ask yourself: Has our current form of government become destructive of these ends? In my view, it is plain to see that it is not the explicit form of our government that has become destructive, but all the incessant adulterations of that form that have been implemented over the last century. In point of fact, the framers of the Constitution would ultimately build a framework in which we could abolish most of any given current government in a single election, for in every fourth year, we can elect a President, all of the House of Representatives, and approximately one-third of the Senate. The courts and the other departments are institutionally more immune, but nevertheless, we can abolish the corruptions of our system through the electoral process in no more than six years. The founders made clear the great struggle it is to abolish a bad form of government, and carefully explained the reasons why changing form should never be undertaken lightly:
“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.”
This is a warning, and one we also should heed, because even now, their are elements within our country agitating to change our form of government in large part for complaints arising from ideas, notions, and practices that are not rightly part of our form of government. I have read a lot of material from you, my readers, submitted and thoughtfully offered, and what all of them seem to have in common is the notion that our Constitution, if strictly observed, with the Declaration of Independence providing its purpose, really is the answer to our problems. We don’t need a new form of government, but only to adhere to and practice the one we had been gifted, until the statists wrapped their dictatorial hands about its throat roughly a century ago.
Let us then start from this place, and resolve that we still hold these truths as self-evident:
- That government must adhere to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God
- That government must serve its people through the guarantee of their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
- That we believe in the supremacy of individual rights over the authority of state
- That Governments do not properly exist to fund the ambitions or benevolence of some men at the expense of all others
- That our form of government ought only be changed after all efforts to repair it have been expended
We will surely expand upon these, and I will continue this series as time permits. Sadly, it is true that we are running out of time to restore our Republic, but if we are to do so, I believe we must begin with our fundamentals, so that we know that affirmative idea for which we struggle. Than you to all the many contributors, and even the many who sent an email stating “Interested.” Even as I finish this more material is coming in. I’d ask those of you who haven’t read them to consider two articles I’ve previously written as a primer for where we next take this discussion:
If our government is to be in the business of protecting our rights, we ought to know what is or isn’t a right. If we’re going to restore our form of government, we ought to know what that form had been intended to be.