We have forgotten why the Declaration of Independence was signed.
In 1776, American colonists were willing to risk their lives, fortunes, and their sacred honor to maintain the self-government that they had laboriously established over the preceding century and a half.
Chief among their motivations, and the most common complaint from Georgia in the south to Massachusetts in the northeast, was protection of their private property rights. Hence the most famous of the War of Independence slogans: “No taxation without representation!”
In the succeeding two and a quarter centuries, liberal-Progressive-socialists have led our nation 180 degrees away from that orientation.
A letter-to-the-editors in the Wall Street Journal sums up the servility we now eagerly accept in order to worship our materialist god, the national political state:
“Ms. Shlaes is mystified that FDR is so revered; she fails to see the basic idea that FDR institutionalized — that our government is intended to protect our welfare. The first Roosevelt — Teddy — promoted this fresh idea in his New Nationalism speech in 1910. Then Progressive Republican TR supported Progressive Democrat FDR because he knew his ideas would finally be institutionalized. That is why TR is on Mount Rushmore, and FDR is revered — they made government-provided welfare a reality.”
President Roosevelt proudly proclaimed his abandonment of the founding ethos in his January 1944 annual message to Congress.
“The one supreme objective for the future…can be summed up in one word: Security….We can not be content, no matter how high the general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people…is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure. This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of of certain inalienable rights Ð among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty. As our nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness….
“We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all…Among these are: the right to a useful and remunerative job…The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation….The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care…The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education. All these rights spell security.”
Security, however, amounts to selling one’s soul to the Devil for materialistic gain.
Hilaire Belloc described it in his 1912 book, “The Servile State.” He noted that, while the just-beginning socialist state in Great Britain was doing nice things for workers, it was at the price of their liberty to decide whether to work, when to work, or where to work…. Recipients of unemployment benefits, for example, had to report to employment offices and take whatever jobs were offered to them, or face punishment….
Socialism is a form of slavery, or more accurately, a sort of neo-feudalism in which the individual has no rights independent of the figurative “piece of ground” to which the political state has assigned him.
Assuredly, that is not what motivated members of the Continental Congress in 1776, nor of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Samuel Adams, while working to convene the first Continental Congress, wrote:
“Mr. Locke has often been quoted in the present dispute…and very much to our purpose. His reasoning is so forcible, that no one has ever attempted to confute it. He holds that “the preservation of property is the end of government, and that for which men enter into society. …… says he, it is a mistake to think that the supreme power of any commonwealth can dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure. The prince or the senate can never have a power to take to themselves the whole or any part of the subject’s property without their own consent: for this would be in effect to have no property at all.” – This is the reasoning of that great and good man. And is not our own case exactly described by him?”
John Jay, in Federalist No. 1, stated the purpose of the Constitution:
“…THE ADDITIONAL SECURITY WHICH ITS ADOPTION WILL AFFORD TO THE PRESERVATION OF THAT SPECIES OF GOVERNMENT, TO LIBERTY, AND TO PROPERTY.”
Servility of welfare-state security was not even on the radar screen in 1776 and 1787.
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776
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