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  • Writer's picturePeter Serefine

Founding Documents: The Declaration of Independence and Vigilance for Liberty

In a time when attributed quotes are often unverified, one sentiment rings undeniably true and relevant to our contemporary American landscape: "The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance." This concept, often associated with Thomas Jefferson but more verifiably credited to Irish statesman John Philpot Curran, underscores a critical truth. Regardless of the originator, the responsibility for safeguarding our cherished liberty falls squarely on the shoulders of We The People.

“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance” - Irish statesman John Philpot Curran

Our Founding Fathers provided us with the blueprint for government in the form of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. The former outlines the reasons for creating a government, while the latter establishes strict boundaries to protect our individual liberties. However, our collective failure to instill these fundamental principles in the populace has allowed our government to exceed the constitutional limits envisioned by the Founders.

The opening lines of the Declaration of Independence declare an enduring right for the people to overthrow a tyrannical government, emphasizing that this right is not constrained by time. The timeless nature of our fundamental rights and our duty to resist tyranny remains a cornerstone of our constitutional system.

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…"

The Declaration further upholds the existence of absolute truths and a belief in a Creator, notions that face challenges in contemporary society where subjective interpretations of truth and secularization have gained prominence, departing from the Creator-centered perspective of the Founders.

"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…"

Today, society struggles to reach a consensus on these fundamental concepts. The notion of self-evident truth has been marginalized in favor of individualized "my truth" and "your truth." The Almighty Creator, mentioned four times in the Declaration of Independence, has seemingly been cast out of schools, government, and mainstream society.

The Declaration then elucidates the purpose of government: to secure our rights.

"-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…"

This fundamental purpose has been lost in our modern understanding, with some believing that the role of government is primarily to provide services and welfare, protect feelings, and regulate every aspect of daily life.

The failure to uphold these principles doesn't end in the second paragraph of the Declaration. The document proceeds to list 27 grievances against the King of Britain, several of which find disquieting parallels in our present government.

For instance:

"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance."

Our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned the vast bureaucracy we have today, with over two million federal employees spread across more than 400 federal offices, funded by taking over half of our income.

The Founders provided us with the tools needed for vigilance. They clearly articulated the rules for governance and the founding principles in straightforward language so that We The People could comprehend and pass them down to future generations. Many citizens today haven’t read the founding documents since grade school if they have read them at all.

We placed undue trust in elected representatives to adhere to these rules and uphold these principles. When the government overstepped its bounds, we often disregarded the impending slippery slope. We have sat by and watched for the past hundred years as the power structure of government has been flipped completely upside down.

Today, we find ourselves precariously close to the edge of tyranny. The descent down the slippery slope appears to have reached terminal velocity, and the fault lies squarely with us. For over two centuries, the majority of American citizens have largely ignored the federal government except on tax day and election day.

“mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable”

The question today is, are the evils of the current government still sufferable? If so, we still have time to teach the principles of a limited government constitutional republic and get government back under the control of We The People. If the evils are no longer sufferable then we must reconsider the first principle of the Declaration of Independence, the right to cast off our government and institute a new one.

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