You gotta stand for something,
Or you’re gonna fall, for anything.
--John Cougar Mellencamp
Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.
--Tom Van Meurs
If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.
–William Somerset Maugham
All Power, Freedom, and Democracy comes from rights. Starting on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence changed forever how the world thinks of rights, and thereby became one of the most important political documents in the history of the world.
The Declaration of Independence especially was intended not just for Americans, it was declared for the benefit of all of humanity. Benjamin Franklin wrote: “Our cause is the cause of all mankind, and…we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own.”
The American Declaration of Independence boldly declared Independence from King George III as a matter of inalienable human rights, and rejected kingly tyranny under claim of divine right. By shifting the idea of who holds rights away from the king, the government and the British East India Corporation and instead in favor of the human beings in We the People, it was as though the Founders had diverted a Nile River of rights. Instead of the blessings of the Creator fertilizing the king’s divine rule, the Founders declared that all people were born with rights, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and created “self-government” by We the People.
These rights were planted in individual people, who instead had an inalienable human right to create, alter and abolish their forms of government, in addition to various inalienable rights involving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As President Ronald Reagan put it “Ours was a philosophical revolution that changed the very concept of government.” The critical second paragraph of the Declaration also tells us governments are only legitimately created through the will of the people and the very reason, the sole reason, governments are instituted is “to secure these rights.” Thus, it is the government’s #1 job to secure you your inalienable rights, to guarantee them and make them real.
Many historians also say that our Nation was the first nation consciously founded upon ideals, instead of race, nationality, religion or class. Enormous faith was placed in the ability of any independent person to use the rules of reason and the principles of liberty and justice in order to “become their own Governors” as John Adams put it. In one word, it was Self-Government or republicanism that was the key to the American Revolution. In two words, the very same thing as republicanism is “representative democracy” (as distinguished from direct democracy, which the Founders generally opposed).
These ideals of We the People were not just being fought on behalf of the 13 colonies, they were sought on behalf “of all mankind.” The subsequent Constitution, arrived at using the Rule of Reason by representatives of the People, was declared by Henry Clay as a gift to “endless, perpetual posterity.” That is, unlike the temporary Articles of Confederation, this Constitution was intended to give principles that could guide America for all time, for perpetual posterity.
Given that the Founders consciously intended to change the history of the world for all of humanity and for all time, they of course did not set out ideals that could be achieved in a day. They set out principles and ideals that could be the guide stars to orient ourselves by. As Carl Schurz wrote: “Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.”
By maximizing individual human rights and dignity and maximizing liberty, the founders unleashed the greatest colossus of ingenuity and freedom and progress the world had ever seen. The guide stars of liberty and democracy, though not fully achieved, nevertheless worked to inspire ever greater progress. The political history of America can easily be told in terms of making the promises of the Declaration of Independence real, as women and minorities expressly insisted on their rights, citing our Declaration of Independence in support. Thus, while some say that the Founders had some faults, it adds considerably to accuracy to state that in setting forth ideals intended to benefit all of humanity for all time, they could not and did not set out standards that could be achieved in the 1700s or even the 1800s.
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