SAN JOSE: On July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day. Since 2018 is an election year, citizens may want to more seriously consider the future of America. The future in light of specific words within the Declaration of Independence. Words that sparked disruption and outright warfare within the United States.
Indeed, the words of the Declaration of Independence served as a powerful statement to the rest of the world why freedom itself was essential — “to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them…”
It was the appeal to the concept of self-government and freedom from tyrants. And certainly, the consequences of the Declaration’s call to action altered the course of human history; the world had never witnessed a revolution like common colonists fighting to create a nation of freedom.
The Founders pledged “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” for the cause for freedom.
The words of the Declaration of Independence summoned all people of conscience to fight for the noble ideals linked to freedom. Yet many today confuse conception with accomplishment. While the fundamental ideals inscribed in the Declaration had existed since ancient times by Thomas Jefferson’s time, the Declaration of Independence was more than any philosophical treatise.
It was definitely a declaration of intent to separate from Great Britain, but Jefferson had skillfully woven into the core of the Declaration a manifesto for the freedom of all people, aligning with what Thomas Paine had claimed in “Common Sense”: that the cause of America was the cause of the world!
The Declaration of Independence – A framework of ideals
Beyond mere belief in previously postulated ideas, the Declaration of Independence created an intellectual or philosophical framework of ideals that sparked and sustained the American colonists’ fight for freedom and the ideological framework for a nation based upon principles of freedom. Initially, it took many years of sacrifice and suffering before genuine independence was accomplished through the Paris Peace Treaty on Sept. 3, 1783.
Nevertheless, the high ideals of the Declaration of Independence were such noble ideals that they were beyond the reach of most people, not only in the last quarter of the 18th century but throughout America’s history.
The American Civil War
The first great confrontation over the ideals in the United States took place in the middle of the 19th century: the horrendous warfare in the American Civil War. This struggle was centered upon the single concept of whether “all’ men are created equal.” Those in the Deep South, who eventually attempted to destroy the U.S. Constitution, had been informed by their ancestors that Jefferson had not meant “all” men when they had signed the Declaration of Independence – he meant only “all free men.”
At the time of the construction of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, the president of the C.S.A., stated that all men were not equal. Vice President Alexander Stephens proclaimed that there was “scientific proof” that the black man was not equal to the white man. Such Confederate political leaders came out of the closet to show their true colors because they no longer feared to proclaim what they truly believed.
Even the northern Democrats wanted to perpetuate the lie, as Stephen A. Douglas did in his debates against Lincoln, arguing that “everyone knew” that the United States was only created by a bunch of old white men for white people. Lincoln, of course, shredded the lie in word and deed.
Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation
One of the most controversial and often most confusing of Abraham Lincoln’s actions during the Civil War was the Emancipation Proclamation.
It was one of the most important actions of Lincoln’s presidency and was a turning point in the history of the United States. While many Americans do not fully comprehend the deeper value of Lincoln’s decree to free the slaves, others still possess a distorted understanding of the purpose of the executive order. Regardless of the confusion and controversy, this document is a testimony to the strength of a president struggling to bring America back to its original foundation.
Long before his Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was fighting to return the nation to the original foundation established under the Declaration of Independence: “all” men being equal under the law. Lincoln addressed the issue in June 1857, after the Dred Scott Decision:
Chief Justice Taney, in his opinion in the Dred Scott case, admits that the language of the Declaration of Independence is broad enough to include the whole human family, but he and Judge (Stephen) Douglas argue that the authors of that instrument did not intend to include negroes.
I think the authors of that incredible instrument intended to include all men, but they did not intend to declare men equal in all respects.
[but] …equal in certain ‘inalienable rights among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This they said, and this they meant.
Confrontations over the Ideals of America
The Confederate Constitution promoted the opposite ideals and values. The old, entrenched white southern aristocracy did not respect the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, and a serious case can be made that the Confederate slave owners had only the name of being Americans; they were not fundamentally Americans.
The second great confrontation over these ideals in the United States occurred in the middle of the 20th century through the political and social unrest of the civil rights movement. This struggle was centered upon the single concept of what “equal” truly represented within the specific ideal that all were “created equal.”
After slavery had been abolished in the United States by the 13th Amendment, there remained the residue from resentment and hatred in the Southern governmental establishments that legalized the restriction and outright prevention of citizens’ freedoms and civil liberties. This became the reason for the civil rights movement and the rise of the central personage of the struggle: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Civil Rights Movement
King was fighting a white power structure whose leaders had inherited attitudes of racial prejudice from their slave-owning ancestors, who had established a system of political thought and instilled an attitude of superiority that he fought against in the laws of the “reconstructed” South. He fought the inability to speak up or speak out, and he fought for the freedom to voice one’s concerns or to vote in a South that had been under the mental and physical control of the aristocratic, power-hungry Democratic politicians of the old South since the days of Andrew Jackson.
King was aware of the depth and strength of what he was up against, but he did stand up, and he did speak out – regularly — at the risk of his life! One should not wonder where his courage and strength of conviction originated. He was more than just a leader of a secular movement for black Americans’ civil rights. The source of his spirit and strength was deep within the roots of his faith. Indeed, he was a social activist, but also a serious believer in non-violent civil disobedience as Mohandas Gandhi had practiced. Yet, at his core, he was a humble Christian minister, dedicated to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
King was genuinely a man of God, and it was his relationship with God that gave him the strength and courage to transform from the humble preacher to a modern-day prophet and the social activist many remember him to be. King stood for freedom, not from the slavery of the Deep South that had been abolished by the blood of white men fighting for the rights of black people, but for a freedom that represented equality under the law for all people – not just a few.
Today’s great confrontation over the Founder’s Ideals
The third great confrontation over the ideals in the one sentence of the Declaration of independence is taking place right now in the United States. At the beginning of the 21st century, there is struggle centered upon the integral concept of all people being endowed by God with unalienable rights: life, liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness. This struggle was initiated through political and social unrest brought about by the thought originating with the “progressive” left. Under a guise of eliminating racism, prejudice and discrimination, the Democrats, the spearhead of the “progressives,” are once again attempting to manipulate people’s lives through control and dominion under a legal construction of their own making.
Two centuries of slavery in America (160 years under British Imperial law), ended with the help of a morally strong and stubborn American president standing up to the old entrenched swite power structure of the Democratic Party, which was determined to retain control over regional institutions that legalized ownership of human beings. A century of legalized racial hatred and segregation under the entrenched white power structure of the Democratic Party ended with the help of a morally righteous and courageous American preacher.
Almost a half century after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, a question that needs to be asked is whether genuine leadership exists in the contemporary American political spectrum to retain the ideals that have kept this nation strong and vibrant for over 240 years. The current struggle facing Americans once again has originated with the Democrats and their “progressive” movement. Under their guise of eliminating racism, prejudice and discrimination, the Democrats are once again attempting to manipulate, control and dominate people’s lives under new legislation that has little to do with God-given rights.
While the Declaration of Independence formulates a framework and a premise for all people to declare their reliance upon freedom and rejection of tyranny, it is not just an affirmation of faith, it was a demand for what human beings should expect in their lives on this planet. The Declaration of Independence is still a call to people of conscience to fight for such noble ideals. Today, the existence of true freedom still depends upon those who cherish it.