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May 14th, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.

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With this post, I finally(!) conclude my line-by-line examination of the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence, but here’s a little refresher as I know it’s been a long time between posts.

In the first post I looked at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident. I established that relative moralism, which declares that no universal standard exists to judge right or wrong, is a lie that many Americans have been taught and have believed. In contrast, ethical positions do not change, but are self-evident in that we instinctively recognize injustice.

In part II, I examined the phrase that all men are created equal, concluding that to “create” means to bring into existence and not to “evolve,” and equal in this case doesn’t mean size or ability or morals or accomplishments or station in life, but instead refers to an individual’s inherent value or worth. I restated the phrase this way: all men are brought into existence having equal worth.

Based largely on Webster’s 1828 dictionary, Part III amplified the next phrase as follows:

that all men are freely given gifts by the One who brought them into existence, which are based on the law or will of God and conform to truth and justice, and may not be transferred or have any legal claims placed against them

Today we’ll look at the last phrase: that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Being careful to state that the rights listed are not the only rights, the founders none-the-less selected three as being worth mentioning individually:

Life: The first definition of life in Webster’s 1828 version goes this way, emphasis added:

In a general sense, that state of animals and plants, or of an organized being, in which its natural functions and motions are performed, or in which its organs are capable of performing their functions. A tree is not destitute of life in winter, when the functions of its organs are suspended; nor man during a swoon or syncope; nor strictly birds, quadrupeds or serpents during their torpitude in winter. They are not strictly dead, till the functions of their organs are incapable of being renewed.

If we accept this definition as being the one our founders understood, then the right to life begins at conception, for what is more natural than our development in the womb? Concurrently, the right to life does not end until all functions are beyond renewal. “Brain-dead” then is a meaningless term if the heart or any other organ continues to function.

This definition agrees with the 4th century Hippocratic Oath which, until quite recently, included the following statement:

I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.

Liberty: Returning to Webster’s 1828 edition, the first definition of liberty is this, emphasis added:

1. Freedom from restraint, in a general sense, and applicable to the body, or to the will or mind. The body is at liberty, when not confined; the will or mind is at liberty, when not checked or controlled. A man enjoys liberty, when no physical force operates to restrain his actions or volitions. [volition is defined as the power to choose]

Pursuit of Happiness: Again from Webster’s 1828 edition, happiness is defined as follows, emphasis added:

The agreeable sensations which spring from the enjoyment of good; that state of a being in which his desires are gratified, by the enjoyment of pleasure without pain; felicity; but happiness usually expresses less than felicity, and felicity less than bliss. Happiness is comparative. To a person distressed with pain, relief from that pain affords happiness; in other cases we give the name happiness to positive pleasure or an excitement of agreeable sensations. Happiness therefore admits of indefinite degrees of increase in enjoyment, or gratification of desires. Perfect happiness, or pleasure unalloyed with pain, is not attainable in this life.


Summary

In this very long attempt to understand just what our founders meant when they declared independence, I’ve examined the words they chose to begin this infamous document:

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.

In the process, an expanded, albeit less elegant, version has arisen that reflects our current use of language, and hopefully, the founders intent.

We believe the following truths are understood by all: that all men are brought into existence having equal worth, that they are freely given gifts by the One who brought them into existence, which are based on the law or will of God and conform to truth and justice, and may not be transferred or have any legal claims placed against them. These gifts include life, which begins at conception and continues until all organs cease to function; liberty, with no physical force to constrain actions or choices; and the pursuit of happiness, which comes from the enjoyment of good.

So how do we apply this today? How does it compare to the Bible? Can we stand on this statement and make informed, principled decisions about church and state and life in general? I’m asking each of my readers to mull this over and share your thoughts in a comment.

Next week (I promise, if the Good Lord is willin’ and the creek don’t rise) I’ll include your thoughts and try to apply this founding statement to the America of today.

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April 24th, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.

[Note: I'm again postponing the conclusion of my analysis of the Declaration of Independence. Stay tuned. I'll get to it eventually.]

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As I was reading through a letter Sam Adams wrote to Ben Franklin, it occurred to me that we as Americans don’t think this way anymore. Instead of determining what is right and just, we have swallowed the koolaid of moral relativism. We say that there is no objective right or wrong, it all depends on the circumstances.

When a pastor was beaten and tazed for refusing to answer questions the people with guns had no right to ask, most commenters said, “he deserved what he got” for not obeying the people with guns. Others cited case law, and said the cops and the border patrol were within their legal rights. Very few looked past these issues and determined that what happened was just plain wrong.

One of the definitions of justice is righteousness, both personal and civic. The Book of Proverbs addresses this more than once.

By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.
(11:11)

Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to any people.
(14:34)

Better is a little with righteousness
Than great income with injustice.
(16:8)

It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts,
For a throne is established on righteousness.
(16:12)

As a nation, we need to return to the Bible, to an impartial standard of justice and righteousness that doesn’t change every time the wind blows. Then we, too, could write a letter to teach people 200+ years from now. And if you think Adam’s letter doesn’t apply today because we have “representation,” go drink some more koolaid: you are deceived.

THE COMMITTEE OF CORRESPONDENCE OF MASSACHUSETTS
TO BENJAMIN FRANKLIN


Boston, March 31st, 1774


Sir:

By the inclosed Papers you will observe the proceedings of the two Houses of Assembly in the late session with regard to the Justices of the Superior Court. The conduct of Administration in advising an annual Grant of the Crown to the Governor and the Judges whereby they are rendered absolutely dependent on the Crown for their being and support, had justly and very thoroughly alarmed the apprehensions of the people. They clearly saw that this measure would complete the Tragedy of American Freedom, for they could conceive of no state of slavery more perfect, than for a Parliament in which they could have no voice to claim a power of making Laws to bind them in all cases whatever, and to exercise that assumed Power in taking their money from them and appropriating it for the support of Judges who are to execute such laws as that parliament should see fit to make binding upon them, and a Fleet and Army to enforce their subjection to them. No discerning Minister could expect that a people who had not entirely lost the Spirit and Feeling of that Liberty wherewith they had before been made free, would tamely and without a struggle submit to be thus disgraced and enslaved by the most powerful and haughty Nation on Earth …

… And his Lordship ought to consider his Interest in this particular not as a personal favor done to you but as a piece of Justice done to the Province.

The Writings of Samuel Adams: 1773-1777
by Samuel Adams, p. 85 – 92


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Category: FFQF  | 2 Comments
April 03rd, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.

[Note: I'm again postponing the conclusion of my analysis of the Declaration of Independence. Stay tuned. I'll get to it eventually.]

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Karen De Coster wrote an intriguing overview of the state of our nation this week entitled “Guns, Gold, and Secession.” After noting the warp-speed with which the federal government has moved since 9/11, implementing Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emmanuel’s admitted tactic to “never waste a good crisis,” De Coster summarized their agenda:

The Feds are engaged in a sweeping series of measures to take complete control of the financial system (which is forever destroyed) and selected business entities; ratchet up plans for perpetual war; socialize health care; further implant federalized education and criminalize homeschooling; grab guns and ammo; remove children from the homes of dissenters; commence race wars and class wars; force young adults into mandatory state service camps; send protesters to FEMA camps; and on and on and on.

I would add to this list the current Senate push to take control of the internet, the last remnant of truly free speech available to us, by creating a “cyber czar” who could shut it down on a whim.

De Coster discusses the gold standard, Second Amendment rights, and the current secessionist movement sweeping various states, and then concludes:

The only way to get this oppressive tyrant – known as the federal government – off our back is to break away from it and start anew. That twenty-eight states are starting to fan the flames of rebellion by moving towards a sovereign itinerary is fairly remarkable. States and people must declare their sovereignty and remove the tentacles of the federal government’s oppressive laws from their necks. Only a breakup of this monstrous and out-of-control, despotic giant can restore freedom and keep us all from descending further into the federal government’s grip.

I fully support the return to a gold standard; I support the right of citizens to bear arms; I even agree that the federal government has gone too far to be reformed and must, instead, be resisted – but none of these things will prevent the destruction of our country.

While De Coster and many other libertarians have a solid understanding of the Austrian economic principles that provide for a free nation, and proudly wear the badge of radicalism in defense thereof, most of them neglect the one underlying principle that our founders acknowledged above all others as necessary: submission to God.

The Great Experiment has failed because individually and collectively we have turned ours backs on the true freedom that can be found in Jesus Christ, choosing instead to worship the false independence that our fiat money has provided. The foundation laid on The Rock of our salvation has been destroyed and covered over with hay and straw – and it will be burned away.

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Oh, man, why’s she got to get into this God stuff?” I’ll tell you why.

Let’s suppose that a natural gas pipeline is broken in a city and a fire is burning. The first responders evacuate the area. The fire department is hosing down the buildings that have caught fire, and the ones nearby that might catch fire. Until someone turns off the gas, however, all their efforts are in vain.

So, too, we cannot cure a disease by treating the symptoms. The disease that’s killing our nation is rebellion against God. The only way to cure the disease is by true repentance from our extensive list of sins, and a subsequent acknowledgment that Jesus Christ – not Washington, D.C. – is our Lord and Savior.

… there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;
-George Washington

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Category: FFQF  | 2 Comments
March 12th, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated.

With this post, I continue my line-by-line examination of the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence.

In the first post I looked at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident. I established that relative moralism, which declares that no universal standard exists to judge right or wrong, is a lie that many Americans have been taught and have believed. In contrast, ethical positions do not change, but are self-evident in that we instinctively recognize injustice and abuse of power.

Last week, I examined the phrase that all men are created equal, concluding that to “create” means to bring into existence, and equal in this case doesn’t mean size or ability or morals or accomplishments or station in life, but instead refers to an individual’s inherent value or worth. I restated the phrase this way: all men are brought into existence having equal worth.

Today we look at the next phrase:

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

I’ve again gone back to Webster’s 1828 dictionary to try to get the sense of what the founder’s meant with this words. Endow means to “enrich or furnish with any gift.” Creator, which is capitalized, is the One who brings into existence.

Unalienable, with the root word “lien”, refers to property that may have a lien placed against it, that may be sold or transferred to another; as, land is alienable according to the laws of the state. In this sense, then, unalienable, means that these rights are not transferable, and may not be sold or have a lien placed against them.

Right has its basis in the “law or will of God” and conforms to the standard of truth and justice. It does not mean, as when someone declares, “I have my rights,” that we can do whatever it is we want to do. It means that we can do that which is “in accordance with what is good, proper, or just.”

Taking all these definitions into account, I’ll restate an “amplified” phrase:

that all men are freely given gifts by the One who brought them into existence, which are based on the law or will of God and conform to truth and justice, and may not be transferred or have any legal claims placed against them

Next week, I’ll finish defining the Declaration, and then I’m going to ask you for commentary on what it means to us today, and how it should be applied. Start thinking!

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.

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March 06th, 2009 | Author:

This post is part of the Favorite Founders’ Quote Friday meme. Go to Meet the Founding Fathers to see who else has participated today.

With this post, I continue my line-by-line examination of the most famous part of the Declaration of Independence.

In the first post I looked at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident. I established that relative moralism, which declares that no universal standard exists to judge right or wrong, is a lie that many Americans have been taught and have believed. In contrast, ethical positions do not change, but are self-evident in that we instinctively recognize injustice and abuse of power.

Today I will look at the next phrase:

that all men are created equal

The first thing to note is that our founder’s believed that “men are created.” Webster’s defines “create” this way:

to bring into existence; God created the heaven and the earth — Genesis 1:1 (Authorized Version)

So all men are brought into existence. They are not changed from one form to another. We’ll look at this later in more detail.

It’s also necessary to define “equal.” I’ve looked up the various definitions in the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary to see what was meant by this.

1. Having the same magnitude or dimensions; being of the same bulk or extent; as an equal quantity of land; a house of equal size; two persons of equal bulk; an equal line or angle.

Obviously, men are not all the same size, so we rule out #1.

2. Having the same value; as two commodities of equal price or worth.

This, I believe, is our definition, but let’s continue.

3. Having the same qualities or condition; as two men of equal rank or excellence; two bodies of equal hardness or softness.

Some men are born into poverty and starvation, some into wealth and abundance. Some are gifted athletes, others are born with no arms or legs. This is not our definition.

The remaining definitions cannot be applied to people, so I’ll go with #2 – equal price or worth – and restate the phrase:

all men are brought into existence having equal worth

Our equality under the law is based on the worth of each individual, not on their abilities or their station in life or their morals or their accomplishments or any other differences. All have the same worth.

Again, this truth is self-evident. Whenever we see someone receiving preferential treatment because of their wealth or their fame , we instinctively recognize this as unjust. Conversely, when someone is treated poorly because of their poverty or their anonymity, we know this also is unjust. It violates our inner knowledge that all men have the same worth and should be treated with the same respect. It’s self-evident.

I welcome your thoughts on this series thus far, and I’ll continue it again next Friday.

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.

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