OPINION – Most Americans will be celebrating independence tomorrow in some shape or form. We’ll see waving flags, banners, parades and fireworks. There will be solemn pronouncements about freedom with patriotic music proudly playing.
There’s a reason the Fourth of July is one of our most celebrated holidays. However, ask a random sampling of Americans to identify just what we’re celebrating independence from, and the answers will be revealing.
Many will recall that Independence Day marks our country’s separation from the British crown. Others will state that it has something to do with the establishment of freedom in America. Both are partially right.
Only those who have actually read the entire Declaration of Independence will begin to understand the scope of why the Continental Congress saw fit to secede from their abusive government.
It’s understandable that we tend to focus on the Declaration’s loftier language spelling out the “self-evident” truths, “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 to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The writers of the Declaration further explained that: “When any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
This is what they did on July 4, 1776, and why we continue to celebrate to this day.
Too often, however, we tend to forget the comprehensive list of grievances the founders listed that spelled out the specific government abuses that prompted them to declare their independence.
A careful reading of their complaints reveals that many of the same excesses that existed in the days of the Colonies are around today – albeit under slightly different names.
The first three injustices cited in the Declaration condemn the concentration of political decision-making power in the hands of the Crown. This centralization of power allowed King George to arbitrarily impose laws and rules with no consent from colonists or their local or state governments.
Compare this with the way Washington D.C. regularly imposes its mandates upon state and local governments. We feel this keenly in Southern Utah when it comes to land use issues, education, property rights, and energy development.
Our highly centralized national government regularly strong-arms state governments and overturns or blocks laws from going into effect. The current crusade to redefine marriage through the federal judiciary is a perfect example of how arbitrary solutions are imposed without the consent of the people.
The telltale characteristic is when every solution further consolidates federal control.
Other grievances included excessive taxation imposed without the consent of those being taxed and erecting, “a multitude of New Offices” and sending, “hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.” This action stemmed from the belief that it was the prerogative of the Crown to direct the economic affairs of society.
This same kind of abuse can be seen in our time when the federal government interferes in the free market by forcing Americans to purchase health insurance whether they want it or not. It also extends to forcing business owners to pay a certain wage, or provide benefits as if these were enforceable rights.
When the colonists engaged in civil disobedience and pushed back against the heavy-handed taxes and regulations, their government became increasingly violent.
The King’s agents destroyed private property on land and at sea and killed citizens to enforce the Crown’s dictates. The colonists cited this tyranny in the Declaration saying, “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”
Some may wonder what an increasingly violent government might look like in our time. The 200-man paramilitary federal task force that descended on Bunkerville, Nevada, earlier this year to terrorize locals at gunpoint over an alleged unpaid fee is just one chilling example.
Pointing out similarities between the colonists’ grievances and our own is not a call for armed revolt, even though modern-day Tories can be counted on to view it as such.
The founding generation clearly understood and, with firm reliance upon Divine Providence, courageously claimed their God-given rights instead of begging permission from an unresponsive and oppressive government.
That is what we are celebrating each July Fourth – independence from big government.
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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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