It would be instructive to highlight the political distance the U.S. has traveled since Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago in order to underscore the stark reality of the state of the United States and the condition of its citizens. In astronomical terms, the distance may be measured as that between the Sun and Neptune. The next and last “milestone” would be Pluto, an illegitimate planet as illegitimate as the Obama administration and several that preceded it. The country has journeyed, haltingly and blindly, oft times intentionally with eyes open, sometimes without thought of consequence, from the life-giving rays of reason and liberty of the Enlightenment to a realm where those rays do not much penetrate or affect the coldness of the collectivist and totalitarian habits of our contemporary politics and culture.
Coming across the preface to the Declaration in Alasdair Gray‘s The Book of Prefaces*, in which the latter section of Jefferson’s opus, following, “To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world,” was cut, presumably for space reasons, I was reminded of that distance (again). I decided to parse the Declaration to better stress the distance.
Gray, however, was “impelled” in his own prefatory notes to paint the Declaration in distinctly Marxist colors, as a document that was conceived principally as a political sanction, defense, and explication of oligarchy, slavery, misogyny, and racism.
By signing, the delegates of the states swore that the American people gave them the right to make a new government if, & only if, it guarded all people’s equal right to Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness. The word Happiness replaced Property in the 1st draft as slaves WERE property so unable to pursue it. Many who signed this contract meant it to exclude slaves, redskins, women & others too poor to be allowed to vote, for these were not people with a capital P. [sic, bold and style Gray's]
While Gray mentions later that delegates who were opposed to slavery needed the votes of the slaveholding delegates to endorse the Declaration as a political document (and this is true), he compounds the confusion by referring to its purpose as a means of establishing a democracy, when in fact it was intended to announce the formation of a rights-protecting, non-majority rule republic. While there are few commentators today who make a distinction between the systems or the terms, and even fewer Americans who discern the differences, the Founders, including many slaveholders, certainly saw the distinction and wrote profusely about it. See The Federalist Papers and the miscellaneous writings of the various Founders and thinkers of the period on this subject.
And here goes the parsing:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another….
It is a question of whether or not We, the People, have any remaining, worthwhile connecting political bands with Congress, the Supreme Court, the Executive Branch, and the entirety of the federal government. As a whole, the existing federal government has, for over the last half century at least, behaved like the George III’s government, acting like Darth Vader’s Death Star, circling our lives and blasting us from afar, independent of and insensible to the electorate, certainly not in conformance to reason, and with a cavalier attitude towards any freedoms which that government was instituted to preserve and protect.
…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….
The nature of man and reality – the powers of the earth, and the Laws of nature – imbue us with the decision and the power to reclaim those freedoms, either at the ballot box…or by other means.
…a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation….
It is a decent respect for the minds of others that has moved me to write this column. And, We, the People, are not so much impelled to separate ourselves from the federal government, as having already been separated from it by its capricious and malign actions, which have alienated whatever residual affection we may have had for it.
…We hold these truths to be self-evident…
These truths are self-evident to anyone who subscribes to reason. This observation excludes virtually all Republican and Democratic politicians, who inhabit a mental bubble world, insulated from reality and indemnified from the reckless and destructive consequences of their actions.
…that all men are created equal….
…Under the aegis of objective, rights-protecting law, what remains of it today. However, the federal government, from top to bottom, from the White House to every federal bureaucrat and employee, behaves like a monarchial behemoth which has charged itself with “managing” the citizens of this country and devoting itself to the exclusive task of extracting from our productive lives every cent and drop of sweat it can get away with.
…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….
…That man is a being of volitional consciousness, and the owner of his own life, endowed by his nature with the task of preserving and advancing his life and values, so long as his actions do not infringe upon or violate the lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of others. And if the definition of happiness should include the creation and possession of property, so be it. It is tragic and regrettable that the Founders needed to compromise on the issue of property in order to declare independence. That omission engendered consequences that extend beyond the issue of slavery.
…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….
To better secure those rights, men must grasp that their rights do not originate in government, that rights are not created by government, and are not the government’s to restrict or obviate. Rights are merely recognized by a body of men instituted and charged with their preservation and protection, and to that end that body is empowered to employ retaliatory force domestically through police forces and the judiciary, and with the military against foreign enemies, which just powers are enumerated in the original Constitution. How many men would consciously consent to the abridgement of their rights and lives? Today, too many.
…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends….
I cannot name a single right that has not been abridged or violated by the federal government. Clearly, our current federal government dedicated itself to destroying those rights by long ago having adopted in its ends collectivist causes that can only guarantee the destruction of those rights. Past Congresses and administrations infringed on those rights by semi-conscious default. The current Congress and administration are destroying them as a conscious, deliberate policy.
… it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it….
Yes, it is our right to alter the federal government, at the ballot box, by referendum, and by other legal, non-violent means. Alternatively, Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged is rich with suggestions. The American Revolution, after all, was the original strike against an omnivorous, cannibalistic government.
…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….
Our current federal government does not consider itself bound by the principles underlying individual rights and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Its powers are no longer organized to preserve and protect those rights, but rather to obliterate them. It is not likely in the near future that it will recognize those rights and repeal every page of legislation dedicated to their abridgement or destruction.
…Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes….
The diminishing scope of our rights is not a light and transient cause. When that scope reaches zero, it will be too late to act except by passive non-violence. Prudence, indeed, dictates that our long-established statist government needs to be changed in the composition of its members and in the reformation or rejection of its explicit ends, or….
…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….
Experience has shown me, and many others, as well, that Americans are more disposed to suffer the abuses of our government than to do anything about them. The federal takeover of education alone has virtually guaranteed a passive citizenry inured to those abuses, and a large and growing corps of that citizenry who welcome dependency on federal largesse, which can only be paid for from the pockets and bank accounts of a diminishing productive segment of the citizenry. It is time for that particular segment to declare that the evils are no longer sufferable.
…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….
The long train of abuses committed by the federal government is too exhaustive to itemize here. Readers should try to think of a single action or liberty that is not or has not been regulated, reduced, usurped, or negated by federal legislation.
…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….
There is a practical limit to the “virtue” of patient tolerance of being treated like chattel by a government whose ends and objects are inimical to one’s life, liberty, and happiness. Beyond that limit, this country is cooked.
…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….
The history of the present federal government is open to all. Buy a book. Read it, but don’t weep. Get mad.
I have always been dumfounded by the non-conceptual obtuseness of people who are unaware of the injuries to their lives and the repeated usurpations of their rights authored by the federal government. Attempts to enlighten them are tantamount to pulling out an IHOP children’s coloring place mat and patiently connecting the dots for them.
Worse still, and too often, one hears their agreement that such injuries and usurpations are necessary to maintain that chimerical form of government, democracy. Many will reply, by rote or with a touchy defensiveness that is a clue to their character, that such restrictions or violations are the “price we pay for freedom.” These latter are men who haven’t an inkling of what freedom is, and who would be comfortable living under absolute tyranny. They would tolerate subsistence rations, allow their sons to be sent off to war to die for government causes, and hire their daughters out to Muslim whorehouses.
…To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
I think I have just done that, I hope, to a candid readership. How far we have traveled.
*Alasdair Gray, “The American Declaration of Independence,” in The Book of Prefaces, Ed. and Advertisement by Alasdair Gray. New York: Bloomsbury (2000), 2003, pp. 416-417.