[i]"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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."[ei] – Declaration of Independence
With those words the thirteen colonies that would eventually form the United States of America set forth on a grand experiment. In declaring independence from England the colonists asserted that their freedoms – our freedoms – came not from the sovereign King of England, but rather from our Creator. In what was a radical new paradigm for the times, the signers of the declaration were saying that it is government’s role to secure our rights, not to grant us our rights, because rights are God-given.
Over the past eighteen months we have witnessed a dramatic erosion of those God-given rights, and the most far-reaching expansion of federal government power our nation has seen outside of war time. From a defacto federal take-over of the health care system, to bail-outs that made the federal government the largest stakeholder in financial firms and auto companies, to an ongoing effort to seize control of energy allocation via "Cap and Trade" legislation, Washington now exercises unparalleled control over our financial and personal lives.
When King George, III similarly oppressed the settlers in America the colonists reacted. In one of the most famous acts of resistance to the policies of London, protestors dumped tea into the Boston harbor to protest the Tea Act which levied what was considered an undue tax on a beverage apparently beloved by the populace. That iconic event was one of the pivotal stops on the road to the declaring of colonial independence on July 4, 1776.
After proclaiming their rights to be God-given, the signers of the declaration went on to make the then-startling claim that they also had the right to change any government which trampled on those rights saying: "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, 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."
As we approach the 234th anniversary of signing of the Declaration of Independence, those words again take on amazing significance. The federal government today is under the control of individuals who, like King George, feel they know best what is good for us and it doesn’t really matter what the people think. Their view is that the productive sector should sit down, be quiet, and pay taxes so they can apportion the nation’s wealth in whatever manner they in their infinite wisdom see fit.
But, like the colonists of the 1700s, Americans today are not willing to sit down and shut up. It is fitting that the Taxed Enough Already, or TEA Party movement has taken its name from those colonial-era protestors who turned Boston harbor into a giant tea cup. It is also fitting that the TEA Party movement is a true grassroots movement that has sprung up spontaneously having witnessed government’s systematic destruction of our rights.
Despite what the Obama Administration and the Reid-Pelosi congress have done, Americans still have the ability to "alter or to abolish" our government. And, amazingly, that is what is taking place. Beginning last January when the TEA Party movement lifted an unknown state senator named Scott Brown into the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat held for a generation by the late Ted Kennedy, grassroots victories have spread across the land.
In Florida Marco Rubio forced an Obama-loving Republican governor out of the U.S. Senate race, in fact out of the party. In Kentucky Rand Paul, a Libertarian-leaning Republican trounced the party establishment candidate to claim a U.S. Senate nomination, in Nevada, Sharron Angle bested two better-known establishment figures to win the right to take on Harry Reid, and Mike Lee prevailed in Utah. Other fiscal conservatives, such as Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, have had an easier primary season, but are poised to be part of the tide that turns the nation around.
Over two centuries later, amid a concerted effort by strong collectivist forces to steal away our rights, the power of the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence in that hot, dusty statehouse in Philadelphia still have the ability to motivate, to animate, to effect change. Like the colonists who first declared our freedom, Americans today are still willing to stand up and assert their God-given rights. And, for our generation this too may be our finest hour.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected])
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