Declaration of Independence - Newt Gingrich

Discussion in 'The Constitutional & RKBA Forum' started by Marlin, Jun 30, 2010.

  1. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

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    The Legacy of the Declaration of Independence
    [FONT=&quot]by Newt Gingrich [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]06/30/2010[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]This Sunday, July 4th, we will once again celebrate our nation’s founding, marking the day in 1776 that the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence.

    The Declaration of Independence was intended to be an official statement explaining why the 13 American colonies had declared their independence from Great Britain. In the years following its passage, however, this statement of principles about the rights of man grew to mean much more.

    America became the only country in history founded, as Leo Strauss explained, “in explicit opposition to Machiavellian principles,” by which he meant crass, power politics. Instead, America was founded on a set of clearly expressed “self-evident” truths. Thomas Jefferson said the Declaration was “intended to be an expression of the American mind,” and indeed, no document since has so succinctly and so eloquently spelled out the spirit of America.

    Our country has evolved out of the timeless truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence to develop a distinct character and set of values that distinguishes us from even other Western democracies.

    This holiday, it is worth taking a look at how several key phrases from the Declaration of Independence have served as definitional statements about the aspirations of America, and how those words of our Founding Fathers’ have affected America in the 234 years since they were written.

    “…all men are created equal”

    The Founding Fathers who authored the Declaration were the first people in the history of the world ever to express our natural equality as a principle of government in such an unqualified way. Though neither the Constitution that followed nor the Founders personally quite fulfilled the promise of those words, it has since been the project of our country to accomplish them.

    America came though to recognize that we are not all literally equal—we are born with different capabilities and attributes, and to different stations in life—the words of the founders capture the truth that we must treat each other as equals. We are “created equal” in the sense that all men (and, we now recognize, all women) have the same natural rights, granted to them by God. We are all the same under the law.

    This powerful statement of universal rights was used by abolitionists as a moral cudgel to rid the United States of slavery, an institution explicitly at odds with the truths expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln consistently evoked the phrase in his famous Peoria speech against the Kansas-Nebraska Act and later during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. As President, Lincoln again included the phrase in the Gettysburg Address as the moral underpinning by which the union should be rededicated. Later, during the women’s suffrage movement and civil rights struggles of the 1960s, leaders such as Martin Luther King used the powerful phrase as a reminder to America that separate (treating people differently under the law based on their race) was not equal.

    Leaders such as Lincoln and King believed that as America’s founding political document, the Declaration of Independence is our moral guide with which to interpret the Constitution. They saw that we cannot divorce the law from the moral underpinnings that legitimize it.

    But by what authority does that moral underpinning exist?

    “…endowed by their Creator”

    The core contention of the Declaration of Independence and the principle of natural rights upon which America was founded is that there is a higher moral order upon which the laws of man must be based. The Declaration asserts the existence of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” which had a clear meaning in 18th Century England and America. It referred to the will of God as displayed by the natural order of the world.

    John Locke, who was widely read by the leaders of colonial America, wrote in his Second Treatise on Government: “Thus the law of nature stands as an eternal rule of all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men’s actions, must ... be conformable to the law of nature, i.e., to the will of God.”

    William Blackstone, who was arguably the single greatest influence on the creation of the American legal system, wrote in Commentaries on the Laws of England, “As man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should at all points conform to his maker’s will.”

    America’s founding was heavily influenced by the English and Scottish enlightenment, which specifically included a space for God and religion in its conceptions of rights, freedom and human reason. This gave the American Revolution a distinctly different character than the French Revolution, which in its most radical phase sought freedom by casting off all authority and remnants of the existing order -- especially God.

    In the American formulation as declared by our founders, man’s rights come from God, not from man’s ability to “reason” them into existence. Man does not depend on government to grant him rights through a bureaucratic process, but instead to secure those rights that have been granted to him by God.

    In other words, power comes from God, to you, which is then loaned to government.

    Thus, the Declaration states, “That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    The English and Scottish enlightenment’s conscious inclusion of a space for God and religion had another key influence on the American system of government. Whereas the French Revolution believed it could create a “new man” through government education and indoctrination, the American Founding Fathers had a profound sense of the fallen nature of man. Thus, they created a system of checks and balances that would serve as a restraint on those in power.

    (If you want to learn more, Callista and I have developed a series of books and DVDs to explain the deep faith of the Founding Fathers called [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Rediscovering God in America[/FONT][FONT=&quot].)

    “…the pursuit of happiness”

    Here again we see the influence of the English and Scottish enlightenment on the Founding Fathers. For writers such as John Locke and Francis Hutcheson, the term “happiness” meant something close to “wisdom and virtue.” It did not mean hedonism or other shallow pleasures as the term is too often confused to mean today.

    It is also essential to note that the Declaration does not say that we have a right to have happiness provided to us. It says we have the right to pursue happiness – an active verb. As I point out in jest to audiences in my speeches, the Declaration says nothing about a right to redistribution of happiness. It says nothing about happiness stamps. It does not say some people can be too happy and that government should make them less happy out of a sense of fairness.

    The Founding Fathers understood that government could not give people happiness, that it was instead up to government to create an environment where the people could best work to achieve their dreams. As AEI’s Arthur Brooks has pointed out, polls of wealthy and successful people show that the harder one works for that success, the greater happiness one derives from it.

    America is a land where through hard work, determination, and entrepreneurialism, people can achieve their big dreams. The right of “the pursuit of happiness” spelled out in the Declaration is a definitional statement about the nature of America that has attracted people from all over the world to come here to pursue those dreams.

    Who We Are This July 4th

    A bedrock belief of American conservatism is a respect for the established traditions and values of American culture. Conservatives believe from the time the first colonists landed in Jamestown, America took on a unique culture and set of values that have set us apart from our European cousins: a belief in natural rights, strong religious faith and values, the importance of the work ethic, and a spirit of community that manifests itself in a belief in limited government and strong civic participation. It is this set of beliefs – truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – that have made America so successful, and they deserve to be protected.

    The modern Left – what I describe in my book [/FONT][FONT=&quot]To Save America[/FONT][FONT=&quot] as a “secular-socialist machine” – is using every lever of power at its disposal to dismantle our unique American civilization and replace it with a secular, bureaucratic culture in which government is big, citizens are small, and our rights are defined by the state rather than endowed by our Creator. Equality under the law is being discarded in favor of equality of results; consent of the governed is being subverted by an increasingly overbearing federal bureaucracy and imperial judiciary; and the pursuit of happiness is being undermined by a redistributive welfare state that kills the can-do, entrepreneurial spirit of America.

    This July 4th, I hope you will take time to read the Declaration of Independence and consider the truths about our rights and freedoms contained within. I hope you will take time to appreciate the sacrifices made by the founding generation and generations since to secure our liberty.

    But most of all, I hope you will take time to appreciate the greatness of America and how hard we must be willing to work to preserve that which makes it so special.

    Happy Independence Day.

    [/FONT] Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of "To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine", "Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works" and "Winning the Future" (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

    [FONT=&quot]© 2010 HUMAN EVENTS[/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot]
    [/FONT]
  2. Zane71464

    Zane71464 Well-Known Member

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    Great post Marlin!
    Over my mantel is a framed copy of The Declaration of Independence, and has been there for years and I take it down from time to time and read the words that is written therein just to refresh my memory.
    The 8th grade was a long time back for me when "we" had to memorize it. Bet they dont have to do that in todays classrooms...
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2010
  3. Insulation Tim

    Insulation Tim Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Most probably, modern students aren't even exposed to the document, let alone being asked to memorize it.
  4. Corey Childs

    Corey Childs New Member

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    To celebrate Independence Day I had my Jr High class read the Declaration of Independence! We all know many details about the American Revolution, but the Declaration is something that we take for granted. I had no idea that the Declaration, along with Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, is the ‘noblest’ of America’s official documents. I found some great tid-bits like this at Shmoop which helped me and my class to better understand our forefathers’ vision of America.
  5. carver

    carver Moderator

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    Thank God for teachers that care.
  6. carver

    carver Moderator

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    Y'all keep an eye on Newt. I'm thinking that he will be the guy the GOP runs in 2012!
  7. carver

    carver Moderator

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    We do have a chance in the elections comming up. Get out there and work to get those elected that will make a difference. Senator David Vitter, from LA, and Congressman John Fleming are trying to Repeal the Health Care bill at this moment. And they assure us that if we can take control of the Senate alone, in November, we will get this done, along with other reforms that the present administration has passed into law.

    Safe Democratic States (Democratic 2000, 2004, 2008)

    Illinois - 1 fewer vote
    Massachusetts - 1 fewer vote
    Michigan - 1 fewer vote
    Minnesota - 1 fewer vote
    New Jersey - 1 fewer vote
    New York - 1 fewer vote
    Pennsylvania - 1 fewer vote
    Washington - 1 more vote

    Safe Republican States (Republican 2000, 2004, 2008)

    Arizona - 1 more vote
    Georgia - 1 more vote
    Louisiana - 1 fewer vote
    South Carolina - 1 more vote
    Texas - 4 more votes
    Utah - 1 more vote

    Swing States

    Florida - 1 more vote
    Iowa - 1 fewer vote
    Nevada - 1 more vote
    Ohio - 2 fewer votes
  8. Terry_P

    Terry_P New Member

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    OK that was strictly the senate. In NH we have one senate seat that is republican and he is retiring but looks pretty safe to stay that way as we haven't had the primaries yet but all four republicans running are ahead of the single democrat. The two house seats we have went democrat in 2006 on the anti-war vote. I suspect both of those seats will be republican. The other senator is a liberal democrat and is in office until 2014.
  9. hogger129

    hogger129 Active Member

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    I never had to memorize it in school, but we did take time to talk about it.
  10. hogger129

    hogger129 Active Member

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    Great article btw!
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