Guest Contributor @OrneryYG
In my home, every Fourth of July, I read the Declaration of Independence. This founding document, above all others, is the most important in American history. It establishes the nature of rights, their source, the role of government in preserving those rights, and the source of its power and authority to do so. All other founding documents that we revere, from the Federalist Papers to the Bill of Rights et al., have as their cornerstone the principles outlined in the Declaration. It is the keystone of our nation, without which we would have no country. Let us honor this sacred document, inspired by Heaven and penned by patriots who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their Sacred Honor to uphold it.
“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 [Property]…”
Our forefathers held as an undeniable truth that all men are created equal. While they struggled to uphold this truth in an age when slavery was a global institution, that they boldly declared it despite the cultural norms of the day is something greatly unappreciated today. We take for granted the notion all men are created equal regardless of race or religion or gender. Today it is an easy thing for any Westerner to say that “all men are created equal,” but historically speaking, we are an anomaly. For tens of thousands of years of human history - with few exceptions - it was always understood there were two classes of individuals: those fit to rule, and those fit to be ruled. And most often the deciding factor of who belonged to which was determined after long and bloody conflict by the victors. To declare that white masters were no better than their black slaves was a radical shift in the global paradigm, one that set the stage for the abolition of slavery in Western nations, and the pursuit of equal rights for all.
Life, liberty, and property: these rights are endowed to us by our Creator who made us equal. As such, they cannot be violated without incurring His wrath. No man may rightfully take away my life, my liberty, or my property without my consent except as punishment for breaking the law. Our rights are not granted to us by any earthly institution - they come to us from Heaven. We are created with them, gifted them by our Maker from the moment we exist on this earth. They cannot be transacted or taken away; they are inalienable, as immutable as free will, though they can be violated and trespassed against by wicked men.
It is because wicked men exist - murderers, rapists, and thieves who would rob us of our rights for their own gain - that governments are instituted by God among men to protect and preserve those rights:
“…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...”
Just and righteous government exists for one purpose, and one purpose only: to secure for the people what they have a natural right to secure for themselves - their rights to life, liberty, and property. Government is a natural extension of man’s inherent natural right to self-defense. “No government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.” When any government does more or less than this, tyranny reigns.
“…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.”
The Founders understood that human nature is to sooner subject ourselves to everyday evils - while such are tolerable - than to “rock the boat” and upset the status quo. But when enough is enough, when we have been beaten, whipped, maligned and mistreated by those in power, especially those elected to be our servants - not our Masters - then we have a moral obligation - a solemn duty - to throw off such abusive Government and replace it with Government that will more perfectly “…establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”
‘’We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do … solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
The idea the Founders were hostile to religion or desired government to be completely divorced from religious sentiment or belief is no more contradicted than in this final paragraph which uses covenant language, not unlike the promises Israel made with Jehovah in the wilderness. Our Founders knew the cause they stood for was just and moral - which is why they appealed to the source of absolute morality and of our rights, the Supreme Judge of the world. They knew that without the support and seal of Almighty God, their cause could not prevail; with it, no enemy of theirs would triumph. They pleaded with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to see the righteous intents of their hearts - the liberty and independence of ALL MEN - and to accept their sacrifice as worthy despite their weaknesses. They liberated themselves from an earthly King, so that the men and women who reside in our shores could be free to follow a Heavenly King, according to the dictates of their own conscience. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred Honor in support of independence. Many of the signers of the Declaration were called upon by Providence to honor their pledge - dying in poverty and ignominy even after the War had been won.
We would do well to honor their sacrifice by taking up their pledge as our own - to dedicate our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the mutual protection of each other and our God-given rights. Our forefathers covenanted with God that this land would be a land of liberty, a land free from tyranny and injustice. Every generation since has, at some point, been called to uphold and honor that covenant in some way. This Fourth of July, let us all take the pledge, and renew the covenant with the Supreme Judge of the world to stand for independence and for the inalienable rights of all mankind - young and old, born and unborn, black and white, male and female - to life, liberty, and property. To do less than this would be to dishonor the Declaration, and the men and women of the past who sacrificed so much to uphold it.