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Wednesday, July 2, 2008
posted by Kyle Hampton | 5:17 AM | permalink
This week, as we celebrate the fourth of July and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, I took the time to actually read the Declaration itself. The Declaration’s wisdom is self-evident, although its prudence at the time was far from certain. The full scope of the historical context eludes me, but its expression of principles seems as relevant today as it must have then.

Many times we stop at the profound enunciation of equality among men as the singular achievement of the document. After having read the Declaration again, this view seems to be incomplete at best. The statement that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” is but a preface to the larger point of the Declaration: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The Declaration continues on describing how and when the governed have the right and obligation to change the form of government under which they live.

The Declaration of Independence carries no legal force today. Our rights, or more properly the rights of our government, derive from the Constitution. Still, the Declaration is properly held out as one of the bases of our understanding of the purpose and nature of government. Jefferson states that “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish [the 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.” Jefferson adds that prudence and experience should serve as our guides in altering, or abolishing as was their case, the government.

Given these principles, it is right to look at the present government and assess whether it effects our “Safety and Happiness” and whether it secures our natural rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Particularly relevant are those measures, provisions, and candidates that are on the upcoming ballot. Experience and prudence should be our guide.

Equally important is our right to rebuke the courts. Several court decisions at both the state and federal level have either rejected the will of the people or created law out of pure whim. However, the final word on any matter rests with the people. We should not passively submit while judges dispense law inconsistent with the will of the people, much in the same way the king did at the time of the Revolutionary War. We can find common ground in the revolutionary mantra of "taxation without representation" with current programs and rights that have come without representation: same-sex marriage, enemy combatant habeus corpus rights, etc. We should likewise reject this kind of judicial despotism like our ancestors did to despotism in their time.

What makes this relevant to this blog is that these are the kinds of principles our man Mitt espoused. Last year at this time he said:

For more than two centuries, the United States has stood for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our freedoms have not been easily won. Today, brave men and women are fighting to preserve those freedoms. As we gather with friends and family, let us resolve to keep America strong. We will always be the hope of the world and a beacon of light to liberty-loving people everywhere.
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