Principles of the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is America’s first formal law. It is a binding legal document. It is an official pronouncement by the first leaders of our Republic. Not only did the Declaration announce America’s Independence to the world and list our forefathers’ grievances against the British monarchists, but it set forth the basic principles that our confederated Republic is founded upon. It is incumbent upon Americans who value their Freedom, as well as their history, to study this remarkable document. Consider this article a lesson in some of the essential principles of the Declaration.

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We will discuss two principles of paramount significance: 1) The truth that our rights come from God; and 2) the reality that political power springs from the People and exists for the purpose of securing their God-given rights.

Perhaps the most prominent principle of the Declaration of Independence is its affirmation that an individual’s rights come from God and cannot justly be taken from him or curtailed. In its first paragraph, the Declaration refers to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” It elaborates in these terms:

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.”

Nature’s God, the Creator of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the source of our “unalienable Rights.” They do not come from man. They do not come from a collective consensus. And they do not come from government. They are not invented by legislative bodies, granted at the pleasure of a president or king, or voted upon. Our rights come from God alone. Alexander Hamilton put it this way:

The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power” (Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, February, 1775).

In 1772, Samuel Adams, often referred to as the Father of the Revolution, wrote a document titled “The Rights of the Colonists in which he expounded the very principles we are discussing today:

Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature. . . .

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule. . . .

In short, it is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”

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Each individual, upon birth, inherits his or her Liberty. Freedom is our birthright! It is the gift of Almighty God. It is an innate endowment and an essential factor in our life’s mission here on earth. This Freedom cannot be justly taken away or limited unless one has forfeited it through their infringement of the equal rights of others. The masterful Thomas Jefferson explained:

[R]ightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will, within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’; because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual” (Thomas Jefferson to Isaac Tiffany, April 4, 1819).

Only our own misuse of our Liberty can allow it to be taken from us by just laws rightly administered. Unless we violate the “equal rights of others,” the law has no hold on us. Any law that violates our individual rights is, by definition, tyrannical.

Our rights – life, Liberty, the ownership and control of private property, self-defense, privacy, due process, habeas corpus, free speech, discrimination/association, and so forth – come from God Almighty. They are, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, “sacred and undeniable.” Please always remember that your rights are God-given, that they are sacred, and that no just government can deny you your exercise of them.

The second great principle we can glean from the Declaration is that all political power rests in individuals. This power is granted by the People (that is, individuals working together voluntarily) for the specific purpose of protecting their rights. The People has no right nor authority unless an individual has the same right and authority. Working in concert does not suddenly increase authority or negate justice. For instance, if an individual cannot take money from his neighbor and give it to another person, then neither can the group take money (e.g. taxes) from members of the population and give it to others (e.g. welfare, federal education aid, foreign aid). The American People has just as much political power as the weakest individual in society has and no more.

After explaining that our precious rights come from God, the Declaration explains that “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” What’s more, the Declaration makes it clear that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [i.e. defending individual rights], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

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The purpose of government is to secure our life, Liberty, and property. Frederic Bastiat, writing in his classic text The Law, explained man’s essential rights, the purpose of law and government, and how collective rights are derived only from individual rights:

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life. . . .

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups. . . .

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.”

When a government exceeds its authority and ceases to fulfill its enumerated purposes, it is not only the right of the People “to alter or to abolish it,” it is a duty. Again, the Declaration informs us:

[M]ankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

It is our duty, my fellow freeman, to throw off the shackles of tyranny when evil men slap them on our wrists. And make no mistake – a pattern of tyranny, such as we’ve seen in the United States for decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations, is a clear sign that there is a “design” to “reduce [us] under absolute Despotism.” That is to say, when we see a “long train of abuses,” we know for a surety that they are not mere mistakes or miscalculations, but that there is a conspiracy at work to enslave us.

Two years before he wrote the Declaration, the Sage of Monticello penned a lesser-known document entitled “A Summary View of the Rights of British America.” In it, he succinctly explained:

Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate and systematical plan of reducing us to slavery.”

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We see so many examples of concerted attacks on our Liberty that only one totally uninformed or maliciously complicit can deny them. Republicans and Democrats alike are angling to destroy the Second Amendment’s guarantee of our right of self-defense, violate what little privacy and due process we have left, micromanage what we can and cannot say and publish, steal the remaining wealth they haven’t already stolen, and spill American blood in unconstitutional foreign wars in which we have little to no legitimate interest. When we see this “long train of abuses,” it is our sacred duty to overturn the corrupt laws, oust the oath-breakers, and “provide new Guards” who will honor their oaths to uphold the Constitution and secure our God-given rights.

Never tolerate the violation of your rights by harboring the misguided idea that we owe blind obedience to government at all times and in all things. We do not. We owe obedience only to God, the Constitution as properly interpreted, and just laws that are made in pursuance of the Constitution. Our obedience to these, George Washington said, is “sacredly obligatory upon alland is “the duty of every individual.” However, arbitrary and despotic government merits no allegiance. “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Rather, we have a right and a duty to alter or abolish such tyranny and to support a government that secures our rights.

I turn again to the first great principle of the Declaration of Independence; namely, that our rights come from God. It is only by obedience to His divine laws, and through faith on the name of Jesus Christ, that a People can escape the destruction of their Liberty. While we must step forward to safeguard our Freedom, rescue the Constitution, and resist tyranny and conspiratorial machinations, the ultimate remedy for our ailing society is repentance. We must repent, turn our hearts to Christ, and become a righteous and virtuous People once more.

The Holy Bible makes these timeless promises to peoples which serve the Lord:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord(Pslam 33:12).

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil. . . .

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. . . .

And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isaiah 1:16, 18, 26).

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We must turn to God like our forefathers did. Those extraordinary patriots did not recklessly stumble into the War for Independence. They humbly bowed themselves before their Creator, petitioning Him for strength, and then went to work, having faith that their Lord would be with them and would preserve them in their just struggle. In his memorable speech, Patrick Henry proclaimed:

[W]e are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. . . .

. . . I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Surely, the Lord was with our ancestors in their bid for Independence. He presided over their conflict and gave them the victory. God is the true Founding Father of America. At the height of the fighting, General Washington was awed by God’s intervention on America’s behalf and stated:

The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations” (George Washington to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778).

The Declaration of Independence concludes with a similar statement of faith to Washington’s and Henry’s. Patriots everywhere know and cherish these iconic words:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

If we love our Liberty, then we will follow our patriot-fathers’ example. We will repent, turn to Christ, and walk uprightly. We will honor God’s laws and the principles of the Constitution. We will zealously guard our rights and ensure that our representatives honor their oaths of office and are punished when they do not. If we are freemen, we must act like freemen.

The time is at hand when neutrality is no longer an option. You must choose a side. Stand with your countrymen who are doing their utmost to defend our Faith, Families, and Freedom. Stand with constitutionalists trying to preserve the supreme law of the land and our distinct Americanist system. And fight the good fight at all times, in all ways, and in all places. I close with words from the Father of our Country. Let them echo in your ears and in your hearts from this day forward. God help us restore our Republic!

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die” (George Washington, address to the Continental Army before the Battle of Long Island, August 27, 1776).

Zack Strong,

January 20, 2020

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6 thoughts on “Principles of the Declaration of Independence

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