Declaration of Independence 2013   2 comments

Finishing our review of the Declaration of Independence, we need to stop and consider where that leaves us today. We’ve found that there are a lot more similarities between 1776 and 2013 than we may have realized. I know I was surprised to find that our government may have become even more oppressive than King George and Parliament. I found myself asking throughout my research — was that all it took for them to be so angry? Then I remembered that it wasn’t the colonists that fired the first shot. It was British Army. The British (the ruling class) were the ones who were angry over the colonists’ impertinent claims to self-governance and they meant to whip them back into line.

At heart, the first American Revolution was about self-governance. Contrary to popular belief, the British Crown had only been the titular government of the American colonies for the 150 years preceding the Revolution. For five generations, the Crown had practiced “benign neglect” and the people of America had governed themselves. By the mid-1760s, following the French and Indian War, England was asserting control over the colonies and their residents. The catalyzing event was the Declaratory Act of 1766, which put the colonists on notice that Parliament considered itself in control and that body did not need to consult with the colonists, who had no representation in Parliament.

The Declaratory Act was, unlike our laws today, clear and forceful in its statement that the colonies had no right to liberty or the pretense of liberty at any level of life and certainly not in the arena of governance. Today, our politicians enact laws that infringe on our basic liberty and our ability to govern ourselves at the local, state and federal levels, while also intruding on our private lives. These laws regulate many of our activities from cradle to grave and everything in between. There’s not a legal commercial transaction not governed by regulation of business and few personal behaviors not controlled through the power of taxation.

Yes, civilized people must rightly tolerate a measure of intrusion into our lives and infringement of our liberties to live in a civil society. Off the desert island, compromise is necessary. My rights end where my neighbors’ begin. We can all agree there, I think. But how much is too much? Increasingly, polls show that most of us believe we’ve crossed that line. Like the American colonists, those of us who have known liberty recognize when our liberties are impinged without our consent or permission. Though we elect representatives, a full 60% of voters today say that the federal government lacks the consent of the governed.

In retrospect, the Declaratory Act displayed arrogance on the part of Parliament and ignorance of the colonies. We see that same arrogance and ignorance from our elected representatives today. Consider Nancy Pelosi’s “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it”. That was outrageous, but this arrogance runs throughout the political class in our country and is not limited to one political party. The Patriot Act is still in force, even though we the people have been questioning its use on us for some time.

In 1766, this type of arrogance started the American Revolution. In the 21st century, consider the “tea party” movement which has been pushing back against runamok government for over four years. The catalyzing event there was overspending, but the Affordable Care Act has kept the spirit if not the energy alive. The Occupy movement railed against crony capitalism – which has been a lesser target for the Tea Party. Anytime liberal 20-somethings and middle-aged homeowners start agreeing on something in the political realm, there’s probably something going on there that needs looking at. Polling on issue after issue indicates the government is out of step with the majority of Americans. Are we witnessing the roots of the second American Revolution?

The political class would do well to heed their own history.

America sprang from the idea that the people can and should govern themselves.  When the representatives of the people regularly pass and impose laws, rules and regulations which the people do not support, history dictates that we need to reform the government or, if reform is not possible, remove it. When repeated elections fail to accomplish that goal, the people have a history of doing it through other means.

Luckily, the colonists who created the United States based on the principle of self-governance also gave us a Constitution which provides methods to restore liberty without bloodshed. They understood the cost of bloodshed as we do not. Today, we must use all of the means they gave us if the flame of liberty is not to be extinguished by a political class out of touch with the citizens and apparently ignorant of history.

The fight for liberty and self-governance is part of our heritage.  We fought for them in 1776 when we declared our independence and officially began the American Revolution.   We fight for them today as we participate in what my grandchildren’s history books may call the second American Revolution.

2 responses to “Declaration of Independence 2013

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