By far the most consequential document for government throughout all history is the Declaration of Independence. The hitherto inexperienced benefits that enabled America to become the greatest nation on earth rest entirely upon the justification for displacing the rule of man with rule by impartial, God-honoring law. The Declaration provided the philosophical basis for prohibiting actions by government officials that would interfere with citizen sovereignty under God. The people who vote in secret and choose like-minded representatives determine the consensus for government action. Adherence to “self-evident” truths that men are “endowed by their Creator” with “certain unalienable Rights” unleashed citizen creativity and independence from tyranny and trickery of authoritarians in and out of government.
On July 8, 1776, the Declaration was read in public for the first time, outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, accompanied by the ringing of the Liberty Bell. On August 2, 1776, the members of Congress signed the parchment copy. It provides the logic and justification for the chain of authority described by Hamilton Albert Long as “man under God over government.”* The Declaration and citizens’ Bill of Rights, added later to the Constitution as the First Amendment, provides the fundamental God-honoring design for government, and the Constitution is the tool for implementing that design.
The purpose of government as a tool for, by, and of the people is spelled out in the preamble of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare [meaning common needs that do not conflict with the development of work ethic and personal self-reliance] and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
One historian points out that the preamble contains seven action words: form, establish, insure, provide, promote, secure, and ordain. The Constitution concludes: “Done in convention by the unanimous consent of the States present on the seventeenth day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven and of the independence [Declaration of Independence, founded upon the sovereignty of the benevolent God of creation and of the Bible] of the United States of America the twelfth [adopted twelve years earlier]. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names.”
Until amended by the people, written law holds firm. It includes the right of trial by one’s own peers and the citizen grand jury. The divine (God-given) right authorizes the people to petition government officials and, if need be, they could be lawfully punished or removed from office. The strict boundaries included “no taxation without representation.”
From 1775 to 1783, the eight-year War for Independence from authoritarian rule was waged. Its victory was a monumental achievement granted by the providence of God. The signers of the Declaration of Independence had pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Of the fifty-six signers, five were captured by the British as traitors and tortured; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; and another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships in the Revolutionary War. In spite of the suffering, not one of the Founding Fathers ever reneged on his commitment to independence.
~ David Norris