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“Tea party,” “patriot,” “Constitution” and “Bill of Rights”: these keywords are the very stuff of the American Revolution, which took place during the last half of the 18th century. They are also some of the words that cued the “Infernal Revenue Service” to target the philosophical descendants of the Revolutionaries, in 21st century America.
Had they been aware that in 2012 not all Americans are created equal, the targeted not-for-profit organizations, aiming to fly beneath the IRS radar, would have also avoided any references to “The Declaration of Independence,” whose proclamation, on July 4, 1776, we celebrate as Independence Day.
Ordinary Americans of a certain age are already in compliance with the anti-American program carried out by their government, Democratic or Republican. Having been conditioned by our country’s many Orwellian Ministries of Truth, they celebrate July 4th firecrackers, fire-sale prices and cookouts. The Declaration doesn’t feature. As this column once remarked, contemporary Americans are less likely to read the Declaration of Independence now that it is easily available on the Internet, than when it relied on horseback riders for its distribution.
Back in 1776, gallopers carried the Declaration through the country. As historian David Hackett Fischer recounted in “Liberty and Freedom,” printer John Dunlap had worked “through the night” to set the full text on “a handsome folio sheet.” And John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, urged that the “people be universally informed.”
And so the people were.
“From the beginning,” wrote James McClellan, “American Constitution-makers had the general support of their countrymen. The principles of government they espoused during the Revolution and implemented after the British surrender at Yorktown were widely shared in every town and village. It was on the basis of this remarkable consensus, this serene moment of creation, this fertile ground of American political experience, that the new Constitution was established.” (page 59)
The excerpt is from McClellan’s magisterial “Liberty, Order, And Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government,” published by Liberty Fund. Like many of this country’s greatest patriots, McClellan wrote from a farm in Virginia.
While Mark Levin, the radio man lauded by his Republican adherents as “The Great One,” has denounced the secessionists among us (check), McClellan (a real scholar) seconded the Declaration’s secessionist impetus. The Declaration’s first part, he argued, “offered a philosophical justification for secession, based on the theory that all men are entitled to basic rights, that the purpose of government is to protect those rights, and that the people have the right to abolish that government if it fails to fulfill its obligation.” (page 122)
The provision of the Declaration of Independence that has aroused the greatest controversy is Thomas Jefferson’s statement “that all men are created equal. This was a poor choice of words,” admits McClellan, for “neither Jefferson nor any other members of the Continental Congress seriously believed that all people are equal.”
“Nor could Jefferson have possibly had in mind the “type of ‘égalité’ proclaimed by the French revolutionaries a decade later – that is, a radical leveling of society to a common stratum through government imposition of political, social, and economic equality.”
According to McClellan, the florid phrase “all men are created equal” meant only that “the American people, as a nation, were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen.” This demand for equal rights is the main thrust of the Declaration of Independence.
“Some forms of equality,” explained McClellan, “are clearly compatible with individual liberty, equality before the law or equal rights being the most obvious. … These forms of equality are generally consistent with the ideal of individual liberty because they may be attained without coercion.”
“Social and economic equality, on the other hand, finds no support in the Constitution or in the political tradition that grew out of the Declaration of Independence. … To reduce the entire American population to a single class of people, devoid of all social and economic distinctions, would have required massive and interminable coercion, resulting in a loss of individual liberty.”
Such “drastic measures” drove the Jacobin French Revolution. “They were never contemplated by those who wrote and approved the founding documents.” (page 136)
With the Declaration of Independence, the colonists were advancing a constitutional argument whereby Americans would be “entitled to the rights of Englishmen”: “the right to trial by jury, the right to self-government, the right of taxation by consent, and the right against quartering troops in private household. Theirs was a philosophical appeal resting on the claim of equal rights and the republican principles of government by consent.” (page 137)
The tenet of equality before the law served as a catalyst for the anti-slavery movement. Equally and justifiably is the preamble invoked “to support secession, the theory being that the States in 1861, as in 1776, had a fundamental or natural right to ‘change their form of government and institute a new [or no] government whenever necessary for their safety and happiness.”
Sadly – and as the existence of the IRS, an agency devoted to legalized thuggery attests – what remains of the sublime ideals “shared in every town and village” in early America is a deracinated, fragmented and demoralized people, managed to their detriment by a despotic State.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, called it “an expression of the American Mind.” Judging from their enemy lists, unceasing evil and dark schemes, IRS apparatchiks and their masters in government consider the Declaration an expression of a subversive American mind.