Sunday, September 20, 2015

We Hold These Truths

     In the hot summer of 1776 men from the 13 colonies came together to determine a course of action for this nation.  They were not of one mind, but all carried some grievance with the motherland, her sovereign and his government. After considerable debate, discussion, argument, and more than a few pints of ale they reached agreement on that course.  It was a decision that would turn the world upon its head.
    Thomas Jefferson wrote the draft, but John Adams and Benjamin Franklin made significant edits.  The oft repeated and perhaps the most important sentences of the document are found in the second paragraph.
“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, --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, 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.”
    There are hundreds of histories, biographies and pieces of fiction written about that first Continental Congress; I will not presume to equal any of these published works either in research or writing.  But from my humble perspective I would like to reflect on the shift in our society that calls into question the fundamental basis for our government and ask a few simple questions.
    Today there seems to be a focus on the equality of man, as if this should be universally accepted.  Clearly the author of the declaration, himself a slave owner, used the terms with specific purpose.  We seem to forget its use was attacking the divine right of kings held as a sacred right by the King of England.  It came into vogue during the Protestant Reformation when the English monarch sought to resist the authority of the Catholic Church.
Jefferson and the Congress put forth the then radical idea that all men had certain rights that were not bestowed by a king or the government, and these rights could therefore not be taken away by government, but should and must be safeguarded if a government was to serve the people.  It established, perhaps for the first time, that government’s purpose was to serve the citizens, not the other way around.  This paragraph served as the preamble to the list of grievances the Congress would lay out in its declaration.
    Since then we’ve experienced a civil war as part of the nation attempted to dissolve the government to meet their political desires, and the other part resisted that effort with force.  The government has grown from a small organization where the majority of the effort was defense, to one that is increasingly involved in all aspects of our individual lives.  From telling us what the weather will be, to ensuring our toothpaste really whitens and brightens.  We spend billions and billions on new weapons -- because we can, and we celebrate politicians who promise to spend more of our money because they can.  We hold no one in government leadership personally accountable for scandal, but condemn those who would seek change.
    Here we are some 239 years later and the questions looms large for much of the population.  Does the increasing centralized government continue to serve to secure the rights of the individual?  As religious and civil intolerance increases does this form of republican representation still secure the blessing of liberty and provide for the inalienable rights recognized by our founders?  When political gain or loss is the primary consideration in most discussions is there hope for understanding and compassion?

1 comment:

EMax said...

The founders had it right. Let's hope we can get back on message before another uprising and revelution.

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