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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You Do NOT Determine My Rights

“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson draft of the Virginia Constitution

In a recent POLITICO poll, an alleged 55% of Republican voters favored an assault weapons ban and a large percentage supported stricter gun control. My immediate reaction is two-fold: 1) I highly doubt the validity of any supposed poll conducted by the socialist news network POLITICO; and 2) thank God that my rights are not determined by popularity, popular votes, or the opinions of the majority! This article discusses why popular support is never a legitimate justification for violating the rights of individuals.

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Let’s dissect an absurd hypothetical scenario to make a point about an important principle. Suppose that 99% of the population got together and determined that anyone with blonde hair should be immediately rounded up and put to death. Is this decision justified? Why not? After all, didn’t a whopping 99% of the population determine that blonde-haired people should die? Doesn’t the majority rule? Don’t the People decide what goes? Aren’t we bound to acknowledge the “will of the majority”?

Any right-thinking person will acknowledge the absurdity of the scenario just presented. Of course society doesn’t have a right to arbitrary kill blondes! Even if an overwhelming consensus wants to or votes to take away your right to life, no one has a right to deprive you of life or limb unless you have violated another’s rights or pose an imminent threat. Additionally, groups cannot be held accountable for, or punished because of, the actions of individuals.

These principles apply to any of our God-given rights, but let’s logically extend them to guns and gun owners. Does a majority of the population have a right to ban guns, even just certain types of firearms like “assault rifles” or accessories like 30-round magazines, if it decides that it wants to? Does a majority have a right to deprive you, a peaceable American, of your right of self-defense? Should gun owners as a group be punished and have their rights restricted because an individual wrongly abuses another person with a gun?

And if we can take guns away from gun owners because a mentally disturbed or evil individual kills or harms another person with a gun, can we also take away knives from knife owners when someone kills another with a knife? Why not? It makes as much logical sense to restrict knife use, ban certain types of knives, or confiscate knives from knife owners, as it does to restrict, ban, or confiscate guns from gun owners. Following this illogic through to its conclusion, can we take cars away from people if someone kills another person with a car? If not, then why not? And if you protest this action, aren’t you a hypocrite for favoring gun control?

Let’s look at a few numbers. The following are the FBI’s official crime statistics for people killed by attackers using rifles over a five-year period: 285 in 2013; 258 in 2014; 258 in 2015; 378 in 2016; and 403 in 2017. For the same years, the following were murdered by assailants with knives: 1,490 in 2013; 1,595 in 2014; 1,589 in 2015; 1,632 in 2016; and 1,591 in 2017.

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If the logic of the gun-grabbers is followed, then shouldn’t we ban knives because knives actually kill exponentially more people than “assault rifles” do? If so-called “assault rifles” are supposedly such a huge problem, then knives which claim many more lives than rifles must be a much larger problem.

In a nation of 330 million where approximately 110 million people collectively own over 400 million firearms, doesn’t it speak to the level of maturity and carefulness of gun owners that only 403 people are killed by rifles in a 365-day cycle? In other words, in 2017 only 1.1 person a day was killed by an assailant using a rifle – a miniscule fraction of the number of lives claimed by abortion each day and far fewer than the number killed in daily car crashes.

Though these murders truly exact a heavy emotional toll on the families and friends of the victims, the overall number of people killed by assailants wielding rifles is statistically inconsequential when compared against the enormous population of the United States and the large number of gun owners. This low number is certainly not large enough for honest and informed people to claim there is a problem or to propose that the rights of 330 million people should therefore be stripped away.

Though statistics refute the claim that guns – let alone unjustly condemned “assault rifles” – are a problem, there is a more poignant argument that smashes the propaganda into pieces. The only thing that matters here is that God, or nature, gave us a right to defend ourselves. The right of self-defense does not automatically preclude the use of certain means of defense. In ancient times, people had as much right to defend themselves with the day’s best technology, be it a longsword or a crossbow. Today, we equally have a right to defend ourselves with a sword, musket, assault rifle, machine gun, bazooka, or grenade. And in the future, people will have the right to use lasers, or whatever advanced weapons then exist, in legitimate self-defense. Time and technology do not change our fundamental rights.

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The means is simply not important. The only imperative thing is that we possess the right of self-defense and that this right be defended. This right is an inalienable right. It is God-given. We are born with it. It is the right by which we are enabled to defend all others, such as the right of free speech or the right of due process.

The U.S. Constitution also protects our right of self-defense. Though some might not like what the 2nd Amendment so plainly says, it says it nonetheless. No majority or opinion poll can take away this right guaranteed to us by the Constitution. President George Washington declared a vital principle:

“This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government” (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796).

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American citizens owe strict obedience to the established law of the land so long as the law protects our inalienable rights. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Our obedience to that inspired document is “sacredly obligatory” upon us. Unless changed by an act of the whole population of the United States through the amendment process or some other means, the Constitution is our standard and we are obligated to defend it – even if we don’t like it or agree with it. This includes the 2nd Amendment which defends the individual’s right to keep and bear arms – any arms – for their own personal self-defense.

We live under a government ruled by law. We are not ruled by the whims of rulers or of majorities. The majority can tyrannize just as easily as the minority may. However, our rights came from God and cannot be justly taken away. We are born with these rights. They cannot be taken from us unless we violate the equal rights of others. Thomas Jefferson stated:

“[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.”

No matter how offended you might be by the existence of guns – yes, even big ol’ scary “assault rifles” – the fact is that people have as much right to own them as you have to breathe air. Both are endowments of Almighty God. Both breathing and bearing arms in self-defense are natural rights. And when any law, no matter how much popular support it has, violates the rights of the individual, it is tyranny. Please consider that next time you start to think an “assault weapons” ban is justified.

Let’s restate the principle at play here by appealing to our past example. If the majority rules in all cases as some assume, then it has as much right to take away your guns as it does to kill blonde people. It would have as much right to take away your car, your knife, your gun, or your life. It would have omnipotent power to do whatever it wanted regardless of the law, the Constitution, or any sense of justice.

However, if Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and I are correct, then no majority or supermajority ever has the right to steal away or restrict your rights so long as you’re a peaceable citizen. If majority does not rule, and our rights are not subject to the whims of the majority, then your right to defend yourself with firearms, or any other weapon, is as secure as a blonde person’s right to live.

I maintain the radical idea that your rights are not determined by the majority. Your rights do not come from your neighbor nor are determined by him. And your rights certainly do not come from government. Our rights are non-negotiable. Government was instituted for the express purpose of protecting our rights. No public poll, no popular vote, and no majority of citizens can take away your rights. Period.

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God preserve our rights under and the Constitution He inspired to protect them! Let us be faithful to our Founding Fathers’ vision of a free Republic where rule of law, not rule of men, prevails. May free men ever maintain their arms to defend their Liberty regardless of what unjust laws, tyrants, or deluded majorities decree. And may each American remember this central truth: You Do NOT Determine My Rights.

Zack Strong,

August 18, 2019.