Independence Day

With thanks to the Bluegrass Institute:
The Founders’ Cornerstones
In this modern age, when we commemorate the 229th birthday of these United States, we may recite the rightness of our Declaration of Independence from Great Britain:
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.”
Less often, though, do we ponder how the Founders of our nation came to this understanding of legitimacy in government.
The magnificent document from which the above passage is taken defines the basis of our Republic, but whence arose the ideas that impelled the Founders to set our nation off on the path of separation from rule by the kings of England? These precepts are a distillation of the free English laws in which the American colonists were schooled before setting foot on this land, where the colonial Americans became steeped in the experience of life in conditions of freedom.
Thus, the cornerstones on which the Founders built our new country were religious liberty, sanctity of personal property, practical exercise of freedom in daily living, and necessity of self-government. These were laid deeply in the manners and principles by which the earliest American colonial settlers made their way in the New World, during the century before the Founders concluded that we must embark on a course of nationhood.
In the Declaration, our Founders criticized King George III, saying, “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” Could this charge not as readily apply to U.S. judges striking down laws people believe to be just as essential today?
Our Founders continued criticizing the King, noting, “He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.” Although more subtle and insidious, our courts today have “repeatedly dissolved” the actions of our “Representative Houses” in “opposing with manly firmness” the judiciary’s “invasions on the rights of the people.”
Hence, the colonists felt the profound injustice of the British king’s deviation from adherence to the laws underpinning his reign, which led to the break in 1776. As the Founders noted, “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. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”
Reading these charges today, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s assault in recent weeks on the U.S. Constitution — the document that implements the Declaration’s principles in practical government — we should wonder, are we indeed the heirs of our Founding generation? Two indictments are suspiciously aligned with allegations we could, and perhaps should, lay against our U.S. courts.
Consider this charge: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” Could this not as easily describe the Supreme Court’s decision permitting governments to take the private property of one citizen and bestow it on another who is expected to pay more taxes?
Add this: “For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments….” This past week’s Supreme Court decisions in regard to Kentucky and Texas governments, acting under their state charters to acknowledge God and the Ten Commandments, could be argued to have abolished their “most valuable laws” and “fundamentally altered the forms of those governments.”
Are these parallels remarkable? Or does growing tyranny present the same face wherever it appears?
Founder John Adams made an eloquent case for both private property ownership and public religious observance:
“The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. If ‘Thou shalt not covet’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be civilized or made free.”
We would do well this Independence Day 2005 to ponder them, and to pray that we ourselves will have the courage of purpose and strength of character to put back aright those cornerstones so carefully laid by our Founding Fathers.
– Reprinted in this abridged form courtesy of The Federalist Patriot, free by e-mail at http://FederalistPatriot.US