Robert W. Peck is the chairman of the Constitution Party of Washington. The following was published on his blog on July 2, 2013:
The Declaration of Independence – Honoring the Spirit of the Founders in Today’s Political Environment
By Robert Peck
What thoughts spring to your mind when the Declaration of Independence is mentioned? What concepts do you subconsciously associate with the act of the nation’s founders in signing that document and declaring their independence? If you’re like most of us, including me, you’ve probably had thoughts like “revolution,” “rebellion” or even “declaration of war.”
Terms like “revolution” tend to conjure up images of a bunch of malcontents who just don’t like to be told what to do, so they’re going to rebel and be free to do whatever the heck they want. I’m concerned that this, to a great extent, is the image of the founders that has come to be painted in the minds of many modern Americans.
As I’ve gained a better understanding of the nature of our nation’s founding, the history behind it and of the philosophies and ideologies of the men involved, my inner image of what really happened in 1776 has changed and quite a different picture is beginning to emerge.
THEY WEREN’T A BUNCH OF REBELS
America’s founding fathers were not actually rebelling, revolting or even attempting to institute some radical new thing. In reality, they were merely taking the steps that had become necessary in order to defend what they had long understood to be their natural state as Englishmen – a state of being free men who possessed certain unalienable rights that both English common law, laws written and unwritten, laws of nature and of nature’s God, entitled them to. They were not looking to implement some new idea. Rather, they were simply looking to preserve what they viewed as their natural state of existence as freemen.
The actions of America’s founders, and the Declaration of Independence that they signed, can best be understood through the concepts inherent in a contract. In a contract, two parties agree to provide certain services and/or payment for services rendered, or they agree to the performance of certain duties owed to one another. When one party fails to perform their part of the agreement, the other party is released from their obligations under the agreement.
America’s founders understood the relationship between government and the governed to be effectively the same as a contract, consisting of both rights and duties that each owes to the other. Based on many years of English history, and of laws both written and unwritten, they had a very clear understanding of specific rights afforded them as Englishmen and of the various duties that both British government and its subjects owed to one another. They understood it 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… That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”
Notice, they didn’t say it was the right of the people to alter or abolish government just because the people have become a bunch of knot-heads who don’t want to be governed anymore. They said that people have a right to alter or abolish government when it fails to perform its fundamental duty of protecting life, liberty and property. At that point, government has failed to fulfill its part of the agreement and the contract between government and the people becomes void.
This idea didn’t just spring onto the scene with the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. The colonies had been registering complaints with the king for some time prior to this and the basis for their complaints rested in this same fundamental concept, that:
- Government had a duty,
- Government had a limit,
- The colonists had certain rights as Englishmen,
- The British government was overstepping its bounds and violating the rights of the colonists.
The largest portion of the Declaration of Independence is taken up with a listing of Britain’s violations of the understood agreement between the colonies and their motherland – violations that had previously and repeatedly been brought to the king’s attention by the colonies.
To put it in its simplest terms, the Declaration of Independence is a letter between two parties engaged in a contractual agreement. In it, the party of the first part is informing the party of the second part that due to the second party’s violating of the terms of the agreement, the party of the first part is hereby released from the agreement. Or as the founders put it, after first listing Britain’s many violations of the agreement:
“We, therefore… declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved.”
That’s not a statement of rebellion. That’s a simple acknowledgment that since the terms of the agreement have been violated, then the agreement is no longer of effect and “we no longer owe you anything.”
This was not done in order to establish some “new thing.” It was done in order to preserve “an old thing.” It was done in order to preserve the rights and liberties that the founders and their ancestors before them, as Englishmen, had understood themselves to be entitled to by English common law, by the laws of nature and of nature’s God.
We’re not the descendants of a bunch of rebellious hot-heads who just wanted to be free to do whatever the heck they like. We’re the descendants (some by natural birth and some by adoption into the American family) of men who possessed an understanding of law, contractual obligation, rights and responsibilities. We’re the descendants of men of principle and character who preferred to stand up to injustice and the violation of an agreement, even at the risk of life, fortune and sacred honor, rather than to allow future generations to be subjugated under a government that had come to believe itself justified in wielding dictatorial power over men who of right, ought to be free.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEN AND NOW
Before you run out and try to declare your independence from our current government on the basis that it’s become corrupt, lawless, unconstitutional and violative of your liberty as a free American, there’s a point we need to consider. While the usurpations and unconstitutional deeds of the present government are plentiful and surely ought to be opposed, there is a fundamental difference between our situation and that of the founders.
One of the key complaints of the founders was that they were being subjected to laws and taxes passed by a parliament in which they had no representation. Today, we have representation. From our county courthouse to our state legislature to Washington DC, our government today is the product of what we the people have chosen by our vote. Yes, rights are being violated, but we’ve agreed to the violations by electing, and 90% of the time reelecting, those who are doing the violating. It’s hard to make the case that we should be loosed from the oppressions of our oppressors when we’re the ones who elected the oppressors in the first place.
Now you might be tempted to say, “oh, but I didn’t vote for this President and his party.” Well, then you most likely did vote for the other party, the one that holds the majority in the U.S. House. That would be the same U.S. House that holds the purse strings and has provided every penny of deficit spending that this President has requested and thereby made possible every usurpation and unconstitutional act of every agency and program that you’re complaining about. No, there are no clean hands here. Both political parties currently running our country stand guilty when measured by the principles and values held by America’s founders. And we the people stand equally guilty seeing that we’re the ones who voted for, and placed into power, first one party, then the other and then the first again, only to have both fail to ever abide by “The Contract“ – The U.S. Constitution.
DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE
The two dominant political parties that currently run our country have both failed to fulfill their agreement with the American people. Both have presented themselves to be one thing, but turned out to be another. Neither upholds the Constitution and neither affords us that natural state in which free men ought to live.
Both parties are quick to point the finger at the other and tell their supporters “it’s not our fault, that other party is to blame.” But the fact is that over the past quarter century that I’ve been paying attention to politics, both parties have at one time or another held the balance of power and have at times held both Congress and the Presidency and had it in their power to implement any policy that they desired. Yet the borders remain breached, debt continues to soar, the once good paying manufacturing jobs continue to be exported, a private banking cartel is allowed to continue printing fiat currency and devalue the dollar, undeclared wars continue without even the pretense of having an end in sight, government grows ever bigger and more intrusive and to my knowledge, not one of the multitude of unconstitutional or extra-constitutional agencies or programs has ever been abolished, defunded or even had its budget cut regardless of which party is in power.
And it’s not just at the federal level. States could exercise their Tenth Amendment right to stand up to unconstitutional overreach and declare such usurpation “null and void“ and unenforceable in their state. At any given time, about half of the states are controlled by one of the two dominant parties or the other, but neither of them appears willing to stand up to the lawless and oppressive acts of an out of control federal government.
It is clear that the present state of affairs in America is the will of the two establishment parties, just as much so as the oppressions suffered by the colonies were the will of King George.
Many of us may have felt obligated to one of those parties at one time, but that time is long past. It’s time to recognize that these parties have voided their contract with the American people and that we are rightly free from any further obligation to support them.
Let’s honor the spirit of America’s founders and “Declare Independence“ from every political institution that does not boldly and plainly honor God and uphold the Constitution.
Our job is not to choose from, and align ourselves with, one of two choices placed in front of us by the establishment powers that be. Our job is to seek out, and align ourselves with, that which honors God and upholds the Constitution. And having found that righteous standard, it is our job to stand, even if we stand alone.
Let our only obligation be to our Creator and our only devotion to His righteous cause that all men should be blessed and should enjoy the blessings of liberty.