The history of America is one of overcoming abuse. Our nation began with a legal document, the Declaration of Independence, listing a “train of abuses,” which violated the colonists’ God-given rights and required them to found a new nation.
Whether it was during the Revolutionary War by defeating the lawless power exercised by the King and Parliament, or the Civil War ultimately correcting the abuse inherent in African American slavery, or the Women’s Suffrage Movement righting the wrong of keeping women as second class citizens, or World War II facing down fascist regimes intent on subjugating the world, America has consistently overcome tyranny and the abuse of power. Once again, there is a need to stand up for liberty and the rule of law.
One of America’s most fundamental beliefs, which Thomas Paine articulates so well in Common Sense (published January 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence) is that we are a government of laws, grounded in God-given rights, and not of men. Paine writes, “But where says some is the King of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”
The United States followed Paine’s counsel and brought forth a founding charter, the Declaration of Independence, and a day was solemnly set apart for proclaiming it, the Fourth of July. The Declaration identified certain God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and laid out in the plainest of terms the list of abuses by the King and the Parliament. They included in addition to overt violent acts of war, imposing taxes on the colonies without their consent (a violation of one of the most basic tenets of being an English citizen), taking away the protections guaranteed in the colonies founding Charters, and perhaps most incredulous of all “declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.” Clearly the British government had taken upon itself authority it did not have.
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