Posts Tagged With: Declaration of Independence

A Republic at Risk

When the 1776 Commission was created to produce the The 1776 Report, the normal mindless, partisan politics ensued. The report couldn’t possibly be of importance and was ignored and deleted. So I, unlike many others, decided to actually read it. Here, quoted from the report, is what it was fundamentally about:

The core assertion of the Declaration [of Independence], and the basis of the founders’ political thought, is that “all men are created equal.”

[This] does not mean that all human beings are equal in wisdom, courage, or any of the other virtues and talents that God and nature distribute unevenly among the human race. It means rather that human beings are equal in the sense that they are not by nature divided into castes, with natural rulers and ruled.

Natural equality requires not only the consent of the governed but also the recognition of fundamental human rights…as well as the fundamental duty or obligation of all to respect the rights of others. These rights are found in nature and are not created by man or government; rather, men create governments to secure natural rights. Indeed, the very purpose of government is to secure these rights, which exist independently of government, whether government recognizes them or not.

…the Ninth Amendment [establishes] that the Bill of Rights was a selective and not an exclusive list; that is, the mere fact that a right is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights is neither proof nor evidence that it does not exist.

In other words, the Declaration of Independence is a statement of the ancient belief that human rights are innate and exist whether or not any particular government thinks otherwise. These were the founding principles of the United States, all of which used to be taught in schools. That was a primary purpose of schools after all. The report writes:

Education in civics, history, and literature holds the central place in the well-being of both students and communities. For republican government, citizens with such an education are essential. The knowledge of human nature and unalienable rights — understanding what it means to be human — brings deeper perspective to public affairs, for the simple reason that educated citizens will take encouragement or warning from our past in order to navigate the present.

When the lessons of the past are ignored, the truth of natural rights ignored, and politicians try to undo or work around checks and balances of power, this is cause for great concern. When these cancers began to eat away at a republic, often hidden behind movements and catchphrases that hide the decay, one day people wake up wondering how their government moved into tyranny. History, however, tells us how easy governments can fail:

Republicanism is an ancient form of government, but one uncommon throughout history, in part because of its fragility, which has tended to make republics short-lived. Contemporary Americans tend to forget how historically rare republicanism has been, in part because of the success of republicanism in our time…

We only need to look to that famous republic, the Roman one, and its slide into tyranny, and the warnings it has left us. Edward Watts in Mortal Republic writes:

A republic is not an organism. It has no natural life span. It lives or dies solely on the basis of choices made by those in charge of its custody…The [Roman] Republic could have been saved. These men, and many others less famous as they, chose not to save it…When citizens take the health and durability of their republic for granted, that republic is at risk.

The 1776 Report wasn’t a partisan document; it was a warning. As Daniel Webster wrote, if the American experiment fails, “there will be anarchy throughout the world.”

Categories: Critical Thinking, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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