Most everyone knows about America's 1776 Declaration of Independence. But did you know that on July 6 a year earlier, Congress initiated a Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms?
It's true. According to History, on July 6, 1775, just a day after our Founding Fathers issued their Olive Branch Petition to King George III, Congress gave just reason for taking up arms against Great Britain. In the declaration, they wrote they would rather "die freemen rather than to live slaves."
Three months earlier, patriot resistance and "the shot heard round the world" had fired off in Lexington and Concord. And now, it was time for our founders and Congress to square off against the king himself.
The lengthier name is A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms. It was primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson; the former penned the first draft, and the latter produced the final draft.
Of course, Jefferson needs no introduction and is well-known as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. And Dickinson, though he is not a household name today, was a household name in his day.
Known as the "Penman of the Revolution," Dickinson was referred to by Jefferson as being "among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain." His name, Jefferson said, "will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution."
Dickinson was a militia officer during the Revolution, a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, president of Delaware, and president of Pennsylvania.
It is fascinating how the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms begins in the same vein as the Declaration of Independence, noting how human life and our inalienable rights are from God and no man has the right to usurp them.
Listen to the echoes: "If it was possible for men, who exercise their reason to believe, that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the parliament of Great-Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them, has been granted to that body. But a reverence for our Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end."
One might see that as a first draft of sorts for the summation that would come a year later: "We hold these Truths 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."
But then comes the coup de grace from our founders in the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms: "The legislature of Great-Britain, however, stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable, but which they know to be peculiarly reprobated by the very constitution of that kingdom, and disparate of success in any mode of contest, where regard should be had to truth, law, or right, have at length, deserting those, attempted to effect their cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence, and have thereby rendered it necessary for us to close with their last appeal from reason to arms."
Is it any surprise that when creating our Constitution, our founders would include as prominent the need for a free people to bear arms? The Second Amendment reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms was a predecessor of sorts for the Declaration of Independence and the Second Amendment to our Constitution. The Constitution gave teeth to the Declaration of Independence, and one of the greatest ways is through the right to bear arms. Indeed, they all are intertwined documents codifying the same rights and liberties. (That is why I include copies of all of them -- and the Ten Commandments -- in the appendix of my New York Times best-seller "Black Belt Patriotism," my cultural manifesto on America.)
Speaking of great works, I recommend reading Nick Adams' new book, "The American Boomerang," which has just been published. My friend Mike Huckabee called it "a remarkable book" and "an intensive look into the American soul and American psyche."
In the chapter titled simply "Armed," Adams explains: "Americans face a vicious criticism of their right to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the Second Amendment of their magnificent Constitution. Outsiders, destitute of liberty and armed by their socialistic masters with collectivist and politically correct proclivities from a young age, point accusingly at the gun culture of this country as evidence of their own moral and cultural superiority over the American. But they are wrong."
Adams adds: "The American is cognizant that the first act of every totalitarian regime of the last century was the disarmament of the regular citizenry. An unarmed population will lose any contest between it and the government. As the saying goes, 'The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny of government.'"
Just as it was for those in the beginning of our republic.
America's founders would have undoubtedly withdrawn their duel announced via the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms if the king had recognized the colonists' rights and had his troops back down. Unfortunately, the king sided with Parliament, and the Declaration of Arms advanced to a Declaration of Independence.