by Griping Grandpa
“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.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to 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.” – Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence.
What the Founders are saying here is that we are all born free and that nobody is by birth the ruler over another. The Declaration of Independence says that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we have these rights and we are born equal, that means that everyone else has these rights as well. Thus, with these rights comes the duty of observing these same rights in everyone else.
It’s a funny thing about rights. How do you get them? You either say you have a right – you assert it – or you are granted the right by a higher authority. But what if someone disagrees and denies that you have that right? Rights need to be protected, otherwise they will be lost. That is why we have a government. Thus, the job of government is to protect the rights of its people. And it is the job of the people to ensure that the government does its job.
Let’s assume that when the founders talked about all men having these rights, they also meant all women. But what about the slaves? They were men and women too, but they did not have their liberty. Slavery was a curse. Unfortunately, slavery existed in America long before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In the Southern States is was part of the fabric of society and could not be abolished overnight. In fact, it took a Civil War to accomplish that.
What is special about the Constitution is that it asserts that people have certain natural rights, granted to them, not by their government or their king, but by their Creator. A government exists only because the people decided it was a good idea to have one. The government is there to serve the people, not the other way round. The Founders wanted to prevent the government from becoming too powerful by creating “checks and balances” and splitting it into three completely separate parts, the Legislative (Congress), the Judicial (the Courts) and the Executive (the President).
The Constitution was based on the principles mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and, with its amendments, was written to define the rights of the people and to protect them from too much government. However, no system is perfect and we must be vigilant that the federal government does not overstep its bounds. It is good to keep in mind the Tenth Amendment, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Our duties then consist not only of defending our own rights and observing the rights of others, but also to elect the right people to represent us and to make sure they carry out their responsibilities while in office. Remember, the government is there to adhere to the Constitution and to protect everyone’s rights.
To find out more about the Constitution and what it means to us, visit http://lp.hillsdale.edu/constitution-101-signup/.
You may also want to check out http://www.ronpaulcurriculum.com/public/4357.cfm.