The Declaration of Independence – Introduction and Principles of Government

declaration_independenceThe Declaration of Independence, July 4th 1776:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people”

Notice that it presents us as “one people”.  And yet, in the conclusion, it asserts that we are “free and independent states”.  From the very beginning of our country, we elected representatives to whom we entrusted everything.  Even in the Declaration of Independence our country is presented as “one people” existing in “free and independent states”.  For most of our country’s existence, the states and their citizens considered them a wholly independent unit that were by extension also a part of a larger whole.  This is a very important concept that has been lost as power has been shifted and centralized over time.

“to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth,”

England and the king had always seen the colonies as their subjects and part of their empire.  The Colonists saw it differently.  As far as they were concerned, they had thus far consented to being governed by England.  Due to the betrayal and dereliction of the duties of a sovereign and for the violation of the principles of just government – the Colonists are withdrawing their consent to be governed by England.

“the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,”

A separate (unbound from England) and equal station – this is a HUGE claim!  They just told His Royal Majesty, The King, that they had equal station to him!  The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God ties to a later claim which, once read, explains that they are claiming equal station with HRM, The King based on every person being a created being with certain rights.  England’s Kings claimed to be endowed by God to rule over their subjects.  In this opening sentence, can you just imagine how livid the king must be!

“a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

They are appealing to the rest of the world here.  They are saying that, if you are going to declare separation from your sovereign, common courtesy and respect for everyone else demands that you explain yourself – so here we go.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,”

They declare some important things in those few words.  Not only is what they are about to say the truth, they are so true that anyone can recognize it and no justification or explanation is necessary.  This is also an indictment, for if these things are true and it’s completely obvious that they are true – and you have not been respecting these things; well, you’re basically a tyrant.

“that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”

There’s the part that pretty much every American thinks is the whole Declaration!  It is actually a very impacting statement making some very, very big claims: ‘all men are created equal’ – well, not in England they’re not!  And pretty much nowhere in the world at that time.  Not only was there royalty everywhere, the churches also had their own kind of royalty that were considered above everyone else.  They are challenging all that – no man is above another!

What are “Unalienable rights”?

Websters 1828 dictionary says unalienable means:

“that cannot be legally or justly alienated or transferred to another. The dominions of a king are inalienable.”  ”Not alienated; not transferred; not estranged”

Alienate means:

  1. To transfer title, property or right to another; as, to alienate lands, or sovereignty.

So these are rights that cannot be legally or justly transferred, estranged.  Or even more simply: They cannot be taken away.

Why can’t they be taken away?  Because they are endowed (bestowed, gifted, placed upon) by our Creator.  No man is handing them out, certainly no king.

All men are given rights by their creator that no man can justly take away.  As for governments?  They absolutely cannot touch a persons right!

“that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We have an unalienable Right to Life.

We have an unalienable Right to Liberty.

We have an unalienable Right to the pursuit of Happiness.

Consider this: If everyone, especially governments and those in power, were to recognize these three rights – we would have no need for the Constitution, any other laws, none of that.  If everyone were willing to respect those three rights for themselves and for everyone else – this world would be a much better place!  So, what do we have to do instead?

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

What is every single reason that Government exists?

There is one reason and one reason ONLY – to secure those three rights of the People.  That’s it.  The only purpose of government is to serve the people to secure our unalienable rights.  Now, does that sound like the government you have today?

If a government is “instituted among men”, where does its power come from?  If the power of government is derived from the consent of the governed – where/who has the power in this equation?  The only way government gets power is from the governed.  If they consent to be governed then power is given.  Otherwise, government has no power in and of itself.

“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.”

It should be pointed out that we are still under the clause “we hold these truths to be self-evident”.  Which means that these things we’re going over now are obvious truths and that anyone denying them to be true, is being deceptive.  What does “destructive of these ends” mean?

The ends that are attempting to be achieved by instituting governments among men are the security of those three rights.  So, if whatever the current form of government is, if it is being destructive of the rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness – it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to begin a new government in the way that the People believe will best effect those three rights.

In other words, if the government is not protecting those rights, the people have the right to change out the government and to create one that will support those three rights.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Although the People have the Right to change out the government; it should not be done lightly or for things that will pass.  Especially when their government is well established – it is prudent to suffer while we can tolerate the evils of destructive government.

“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.”

While we acknowledge that changing the government should not done lightly – when the abuses go on continually with no reprieve – it is their RIGHT and their DUTY to get rid of that government and build up a new one that will secure those three rights.

“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. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.”

The Colonies have suffered as is required and they will now suffer no more.  The king has sought one thing over the Colonies – Tyranny.  To prove it, they list their Grievances.

There are four Sections to this Series:

How well do you know the Declaration of Independence?
Introduction and Principles of Government
The Grievances
Tolerances, Appeals and Declaring Independence