Similarities to 1776   Leave a comment

When I ran this series originally, I had just finished a review of the Declaration of Independence. You are welcome to find those posts and read them. I am not re-running them this time. Lela

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File:Constitution of the United States, page 1.jpgFinishing 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.

At heart, the first American Revolution was about self-governance. Forget the whole “taxation without representation” slogan. Taxation was one pixel of a much larger picture. 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. 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 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 party. 

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 Occupy movement railed against crony capitalism – which has been a lesser target for the Tea Party. (Betcha didn’t know that!) 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? Perhaps the seeds of a second American Civil War?

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. When Congress refused to act and the states couldn’t get their heads out of their armpits in the 1850s, we set aside the Constitution as a nation and started shooting at each other. We need to remember that history and learn lessons from it. Today, we must use all of the constitutional safeguards 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. 

Revolutions do not have to result in bloodshed. Our Constitution provides us with the means to avoid it, if we will make use of those means.

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.

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