The Declaration of Independence: Our Mandate for Change

Declaration_of_Independence_draft_(detail_with_changes_by_Franklin)

Three days ago, as a nation, we celebrated the 240th anniversary of the declaration of our independence. To reread the words committed to by the General Congress of the United States of America is to re-imagine a revolution. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of our precious document, convincingly and eloquently established just how right it was for the colonies to “institute new government” and to absolve themselves from allegiance to the mastery of Great Britain.

As we approach the quadrennial fiasco of electing a new president (with special focus on the absurd candidacies of the two parties), the polarized congress, the Electoral College which virtually renders the vote of the American people inert, plus a myriad bullet list of the failures of our government to protect and foster our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we should consider anew Mr. Jefferson’s second paragraph:

“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 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 likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? It was the conclusion of the representatives of the thirteen colonies that the time had come not to suffer the evils any longer.

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Thomas Jefferson, in fact all of the founding fathers, would wither in shame at how we have allowed our government to evolve into a monstrous and misshapen facsimile of the original leadership that came together to throw off the bonds of Great Britain, by pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Special interest groups and the greed of manipulative, unprincipled business leaders have warped the vision of those brave souls who stood against impossible odds to create this country. Yes, we as a people in concert with a nascent government allowed unspeakable atrocities: the decimation and annihilation of the Native American peoples and African slavery for hundreds of years, it is part of our national historical disgrace. We cannot change our past, but we must affect our future. We must consider that the time has come to echo the words of Jefferson, that it is our right to dismantle the current and ineffective system of government.

A decade after the declaration, Jefferson’s declaration was reverberated by the words he used in a letter. He wrote:

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion [reference is made here to Shay’s Rebellion over economic policy, aggressive tax and debt collection, and political corruption]. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

I cannot think of a time more worthy of a call to action based on those words than now.

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