A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy
". . . this sacred principle . . ." [Majority must respect Minority's rights] (President Jefferson's First Inaugural Address)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that The Majority must be strictly limited in power, and in the operation of government, for the protection of The Individual's God-given, unalienable rights proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence and, therefore, of the rights of The Minority--of all minorities.
A Restricted Mechanic of Government
2. Self-government's system of rule by majority vote is based on necessity. Rule by majority vote is a necessary mechanic of any government of the popular type, featuring rule by the people through free, periodic elections such as, for example, those held in the United States. Under this philosophy, rule by majority vote is always subject to the "sacred principle" defined in President Jefferson's First Inaugural Address, quoted below.
"All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression."
A Minority of One Protected
3. The protection provided by this principle applies fundamentally, of course, in favor of a minority of one: The Individual. No majority, however great even all of the people but one Individual--may properly infringe, or possess the power to infringe, the rights of any minority, however small--even a minority of a lone Individual.
America a Republic--Not a Democracy--In Form of Government--So As to Limit Effectively The Majority To Protect the Individual
4. Therein lies the reason why the American leaders who framed and ratified the United States Constitution in 1787-1788 chose, for America's form of government, that of a Republic and not a Democracy. (The then existing Confederation was merely a treaty arrangement between completely independent and separate State governments, by agreement of their legislatures only and not by consent of the people, with no real central government--with only a legislative body--and with no power over those governments or over individual citizens; so it provided no protection for the rights of The Individual or The Minority against tyranny by The Majority in any State--later remedied, as to certain rights, by prohibitions in the original Constitution expressly made applicable against the States.) A Republic is a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution--adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment--with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. In a Republic, the whole system is designed primarily to protect The Individual's unalienable rights--therefore The Minority, all minorities--against any violation by government or by others. As the Declaration of Independence expresses this American goal of safeguarding these rights, the people form their governments "to secure these rights"--to make and keep them secure.
The Majority Omnipotent in Any Democracy
5. This is not the case under a Democracy, speaking of it as a form of government and not merely in the more general sense of its meaning a popular type of government. In a Democracy, The Majority is omnipotent, whether it be a Representative Democracy or a Direct Democracy. In the Representative type, the people function governmentally through an elected legislature, which selects and controls the head of the Executive Department, as in Great Britain where "the authority of the parliament is transcendent and uncontrolable" (as stated in The Federalist number 53, by Madison)--where in fact the House of Commons alone has by law become supreme. In the Direct type, all of the electorate (those entitled to vote) assemble as a single group to debate and decide directly and conclusively all governmental questions. This is suitable only for a very small number of people--as in a New England town with a town-meeting system of government, or in a situation like that of the small city-states of ancient Greece. (Decisions of a New England town-meeting are, of course, subject to the State and United States Constitutions which protect the rights of The Individual and The Minority, so such a town-meeting government is not a true Democracy featuring The Majority Omnipotent.)
In a Democracy, The Individual Is Subservient and Must Be Submissive to The Omnipotent Majority
6. Any Democracy, either Representative or Direct, does not even recognize the existence of any unqualified rights of The Individual, much less his possessing God-given, unalienable rights as conceived by the American philosophy. A Democracy in America, as a form of government, would therefore provide no protection for these rights. Under a Democracy, Man is considered to have only qualified privileges permitted by The Majority in control of government and revocable by it at any time. This spells Rule by Omnipotent Majority, with The Individual and The Minority as well as all minorities victimized at the pleasure of The Majority, without limit and without any legal basis for objection or practical remedy. The idea of such unlimited rule, as if by "divine right of The Majority," is as abhorrent in the eyes of the traditional American philosophy as is the idea of rule by "divine right of kings."
The Uniquely American Principle Was Thoroughly Understood in 1776
7. The traditional American philosophy requires a Republic's constitutionally limited form of government for the security of Man's unalienable rights against violation by The Majority, by government, as well as by others. This philosophy was well understood in America in 1776 but was imperfectly practiced by the States in the post-1776 period, during which rights were violated. This correct understanding was exemplified by the previously noted (Par. 8, Principle 2) town-meeting petition of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, addressed to the legislature of Massachusetts in May, 1776. It urged the adoption by the people--as "the fountain of power"--of a Constitution as their fundamental law, to fill the void created by the end of royal rule, as "the first step to be taken" by the people in order to guard against despotism--against "the wanton exercise of power"--and it asserted, that the only safeguard is "the formation of a fundamental constitution" by the people. Their aim was to safeguard their liberties. This was accomplished by the people of Massachusetts in 1780, by their creating the first true Constitution and Republic in the world. They utilized successfully, for the first time in history, a constitutional convention--which is America's great, if not greatest, contribution to the mechanics of self-government through constitutional government. (Earlier Acts of Legislatures of other States were erroneously classified as "constitutions," while some countries' governments throughout history had generally been erroneously classified as "republics"--a much-misunderstood and loosely used term. See the correct definition of a Republic in Paragraph 4, above.)
Principle Violated by "Elective Despotism" after 1776
8. The post-1776 period witnessed gross violations by State Legislatures of the unalienable rights of victimized Individuals. In Virginia, for example, Jefferson protested vigorously against the Legislature's acts of tyranny by The Majority, stating: "An elective despotism was not the government we fought for ("Notes on The State of Virginia," 1782; emphasis Jefferson's). Misconduct in this period by The Omnipotent Majority in the legislatures of a number of the States was in reaction against the earlier oppressive rule by the king and his royal governors and judges. At that time, except in Massachusetts under its Constitution of 1780, there were no real State Constitutions to restrain the legislatures, which made sure that the governors and judges were without power to prohibit legislative enactments (by which the violations of unalienable rights were effected). The New Hampshire Constitution, based on this pattern, was not adopted until 1784 after a Constitutional Convention was successful in framing one acceptable to the people--several earlier conventions having been unsuccessful. Other States did not follow suit for a number of years, some not for decades.
"The Excesses of Democracy"
9. This type of tyranny, by Omnipotent Majority, is always possible under any Democracy as a form of government. This is what The Framers and Ratifiers of the Constitution and their fellow American leaders meant when, in the 1787-1788 debates with regard to the framing and adoption of the Constitution, they denounced the 11 excesses of democracy. They were, of course, not criticizing popular government as such--for instance as it exists under the Republic of the United States featuring constitutionally limited government, as limited by the Constitution. They were, therefore, not condemning democracy in the general sense of the term--meaning merely a popular type of government. They were speaking in support of America's being a Republic, not a Democracy, as a form of government. The more general meaning of Democracy--popular government--also applies to America; but this use of the term is only confusing in any discussion, as here, of the characteristics of different forms of popular government: a Republic in contrast to a Democracy.
Federal and State Republics
10. The foregoing explains why the traditional American philosophy requires that the central (Federal) government and the State governments be Republics. (See Pars. 6-7 of Principle 5.) Each State is guaranteed the form of government of a Republic by the United States Constitution (Art. IV, Sec. 4). The foregoing also makes clear why this philosophy requires that The Majority, at any time in temporary charge of government, administer its affairs in keeping with the Constitution's limitations and for the benefit of all Individuals composing the people as a whole, meaning The Minority and all minorities as well as The Majority--not merely for the benefit of those constituting only The Majority of the moment.
11. The traditional American philosophy demands that the power of The Majority be limited for the protection of The Individual's unalienable rights, for the security of Man's Liberty against Government-over-Man, in keeping with the American formula: The Majority--Limited for Liberty.
Quotes from The American Ideal of 1776 supporting this Principle.
A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy
11. Taxes--Limited to Safeguard Liberty
"He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance." (Declaration of Independence)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that tyranny through taxation is one of the most dangerous and oppressive aspects of Government-over-Man and must be guarded against and opposed accordingly, for the protection of Man's God-given, unalienable rights.
The Precedent of 1776
2. Tyrannous abuse of the taxing power was a principal provocation of the American Revolution in 1776 and, according to this philosophy, will always be considered and treated as just cause for prompt, effective, remedial action by every generation of Americans worthy of the American heritage of Individual Liberty--the heritage of Free Man determined to preserve his Freedom from Government-over-Man. This can be done mainly through preserving inviolate the supporting system of constitutionally limited government, designed to restrict government's activities and therefore its cost and taxes.
Limited Taxing Power
3. The traditional American philosophy of constitutionally limited government--Limited for Liberty--is hostile to any concept which would permit any unlimited power of taxation to exist to the peril of Man's unalienable rights. Potential danger, not merely present danger, is the crux of the matter and the reason for constitutional safeguards, which are designed to provide protection in the worst imaginable situations. This philosophy prescribes various limitations upon the taxing power of the Federal government, as expressed in the Constitution. For example, Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution authorizes Congress to make only specified levies--within the bounds of certain specific limits as to uses of tax monies: "to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." It also authorizes taxes only to raise revenue to pay for the government's authorized activities, within the bounds of its limited powers and limited duties under the Constitution, as amended--for use directly and openly to accomplish the objects committed to its care and the trusts for which it is made responsible by the people under this basic law. This is according to the controlling intent of those who framed and ratified the Constitution in 1787-1788, and likewise as to each amendment.
Examples of What Is Not Authorized
4. A few examples of what is not authorized by the Constitution in this regard, therefore as impliedly prohibited, will be clarifying. In general, the power of taxation may not be used by the Federal government as a means of bringing about indirectly and subtly any governmental change, or any social or other type of reform, or to achieve indirectly in effect Federal control of anything or anybody, or to accomplish any other result whatever, which the people have not authorized by the Constitution to be accomplished directly and openly. Nor may the power of taxation be used in furtherance of any abuse of the limited powers granted to the Federal government, or in furtherance of activities due to usurpation of any power withheld from it, or denied or prohibited to it, expressly or impliedly, by the people through the Constitution, as amended.
It is especially noteworthy that Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, in urging for the first time in 1791 that the Taxing Clause granted to the Federal government a separate and substantive power for the application of money, "within the limits of what would serve the general welfare," conceded that such power would "not carry a power to do any other thing not authorized in the Constitution, either expressly or by fair implication." (See Pars. 8-10 of Principle 5.)
Some specific examples are as follows. The power of taxation may not be used so as to prevent criticism of the Federal government by the Press; which would be exercising power over a field of activity withheld from this government by the original Constitution and expressly prohibited by the First Amendment. Nor may taxes be used to obtain funds to subsidize, and in effect to control, any field of activity denied to this government (excluded from its enumerated powers) and reserved to the States by the Constitution--so as in effect to "buy" submission to Federal usurpers: such as agriculture. Hamilton made it expressly clear, in The Federalist number 17, that this is a field of activity over which the Federal government had been given no power--a field over which it could never properly be given any power to control. Also, taxes may not be used to stifle, undermine, or destroy any part of the traditional American system's economic aspect of Liberty such as Individual Enterprise (individual, private, competitive, enterprise).
Equally repugnant and prohibited are taxes designed to put into effect the anti-private-property idea, or plan, of "leveling" of ownership of property (money or any other type) by attempting to make all people more "equal" as to property, or as to income, by taking from some to give to others--as a means of achieving social reform or any other purpose not directly and openly authorized by the people in the Constitution. For example, in 1768 a Resolution of the Massachusetts House of Representatives (drafted by James Otis, Samuel Adams et al) denounced such leveling as being "despotic and . . . unconstitutional." Two decades later The Federalist (number 10, by Madison) condemned it as "improper" and "wicked." Jefferson decried leveling as being unjust and violative of "the first principle of association"--meaning a people's associating for purposes of self-government.
The Examples Continued
5. Congress is not authorized to tax and spend as it pleases, for any and every purpose which it may choose to say, or actually thinks, will serve the "general welfare." Those who framed and ratified the Constitution in 1787-1788 intended the Taxing Clause's words: "general Welfare of the United States," to serve as a limitation on the taxing power. These words were designed to restrict taxing and spending to constitutionally authorized objectives, meaning in part only those which would serve the welfare of the United States as a whole and not merely of a locality, not of individual citizens. Congress does not possess unlimited, sovereign power to tax the people. (See Pars. 8-10 of Principle 5.) It does not even possess "general legislative authority, as Hamilton stated in The Federalist number 83.
Congress has, of course, been granted no power to exceed its constitutional authority or responsibilities by being benevolent, by making donations, of money or property at home or abroad at the expense of the American people's income, or other money or property. According to the controlling intent of those who framed and ratified the Constitution, the only words in the Taxing Clause which could possibly be said to sanction any donation to any foreign government, or people, are the words "national defense"--meaning direct and actual military defense of the American homeland. Any and all foreign donations by the Federal government are, therefore, clearly prohibited by inescapable implication unless, and except to the limited extent that any such donation in actuality helps directly and substantially, on a realistic military basis, to "provide for the common Defence . . . of the United States"--of the States composing the Union.
These few illustrations exemplify prohibited misuse of the limited taxing power as granted by the people to the Federal government under the Constitution, as amended.
Peril to Liberty--Multiplied
6. The traditional American philosophy recognizes that an unlimited power to tax involves the power to destroy--a truth long known. This becomes all the more evilly significant if, when and to the extent that the Federal government becomes guilty of wholesale usurpation of power to expand its activities, at home and abroad, in defiance of the limits on its power imposed by the sovereign people through the Constitution. The evil significance involved is greatly augmented when--in furtherance of such wholesale usurpation--any such official culprits: Federal usurpers, employ oppressive taxation so as in effect to finance their political schemes to keep themselves in power, in control of the government, by using vast sums of public monies to subsidize--in truth to bribe, corrupt and seduce--immense segments of the electorate through distribution of individual money "benefits", to win their votes. This aim and process are furthered by building up a vast governmental bureaucracy which helps to serve this objective but has no sensible relation to sound governmental operations serving constitutionally authorized purposes. Then, indeed, are Individual Liberty and sound self-government in America--also the integrity and safety of the Republic itself--placed in effect on the auction block. This potentially disastrous condition, of danger compounded, becomes almost unlimited in degree of peril for Free Man in America, for American Posterity, when this combination of usurpation and tax tyranny is employed--by such usurpers and their collaborators in all walks of life--to supplant the traditional American system of Man-over-Government with the system of Government-over-Man. The foregoing precepts reflect some aspects of The Founders' thinking in this connection. (Note especially the Jefferson quotation on page xx, ante, about taxing--spending--electing.) Any accomplishment of the prohibited objectives by gradual and deceptive steps--rather than directly and openly--highlights the importance of keeping ever in mind a maxim of which the sense was well-known to them and is expressable in verse form as follows:
Great Oaks and Great Tyrannies
Just as surely as "great oaks from little acorns grow,"
So do greatest tyrannies have smallest beginnings;
Yet the mind, uninstructed by knowledge or reason,
Cannot sense either oak or tyranny in the seed.
No Unlimited Income-Tax Power Under the Principle of Limited Government
7. The foregoing holds good even though the traditional American philosophy and system contemplate the Federal government's possessing, by grant of the people under the Constitution, "an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes," as stated in The Federalist (number 31, by Alexander Hamilton)--for instance, a consumption tax on sales of goods. Such a tax cannot become dangerous to the people's liberties because it contains an automatic check on abuse by way of such taxation; if the amount of the tax offends them, they can simply refuse to buy the goods and thereby make the tax a failure, leading to its repeal. Even "an unqualified power of taxation" in some mode which was not ordinary in the days of The Founders and was not provided for by them in the Constitution--for instance, a graduated, "escalating" income tax, especially without expressly specifying a maximum rate or "ceiling"--would nevertheless have been considered by them to be impliedly limited in effect because subject to the following factors. First, the principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence--notably that governments are granted only "just powers," meaning limited powers, in order to make and keep secure the people's unalienable rights--forbid the existence in America of any system of government or governmental practices which could, in effect and in the unlimited discretion of public servants, impose tax-slavery upon the people through permitting these public, servants in peacetime to confiscate most, or all, of the income of the people to be spent as these public servants may please. This assuredly would have been considered by The Founders to be the very definition of tax-tyranny, which was one of the chief causes of the Revolution in 1776. Second, the system intended to be created by The Framers and Adopters of the Constitution--with only the few, limited powers enumerated being granted to the Federal government (for example, per The Federalist number 45 by Madison with Hamilton's silent concurrence)--likewise bars tax-tyranny because Congress is authorized to tax and spend only within the scope of its power-limits and its commensurately limited responsibilities; which must always be construed in keeping with that original, controlling intent of The Framers and Adopters, subject only to amendment by the people of the Constitution. Congress may not tax and spend in support of activities in furtherance of abuse of any granted power or in support of usurpation of power not granted.
The Founders would assuredly have stressed these implied limits upon any power to tax incomes of the people--if granted by and constitutional amendment--in the absence of an express, specific and clear mandate from the people to the contrary stated in any such amendment, for instance if it should expressly authorize confiscatory taxes for war needs. Just as they certainly would have condemned any generation of Americans as being unfaithful to the American heritage of Man-over-Government, as being defaulting trustees of Posterity's just heritage, because of any submission to oppressive taxation amounting to tax-tyranny. This applies equally to taxation of accumulated wealth (savings), or property, by way of inheritance, or estate. taxes (death taxes), which are equally subject to the above-mentioned principles and implied limits.
The basic American principles previously discussed: "Limited and Decentralized for Liberty" (per Principles 5 and 6) would therefore, have been declared by The Founders to be respected and protected in effect and impliedly by pertinent, controlling limitations despite any income-tax, or any death-tax, provision in any amendment to the Constitution not expressly fixing a maximum rate or "ceiling." They would have agreed that the above-mentioned implied limits would nevertheless be applicable, though not made express, so as to bar unlimited taxing-power opening the door to tax-tyranny, tax-slavery.
Benjamin Franklin's Example
8. When government takes a part of an Individual's earned income, this is the equivalent of government's commandeering, or confiscating, for its own purposes a corresponding portion of his working time; he is deprived of the benefit, of the fruit, of such work and time. A taxpayer's time is employed in the service, or support, of government to the extent that be must devote it to earning the money required to pay the taxes imposed by government. Benjamin Franklin suggested a specific standard or rule by which to judge the character of taxation, presumably in peacetime (not in a national crisis of war), as to whether or not it is oppressive and beyond which the burden of taxation would, in his opinion, presumably have been considered oppressive, if not tyrannous. It was stated by him in a 1758 writing:
"It would be thought a hard Government that should tax its People one tenth Part of their Time, to be employed in its Service." (Emphasis his.)
(Maximum income-tax rate was only seven per cent under [the] 1913 law--the first under the Sixteenth Amendment.)
Under the American philosophy and system of constitutionally limited government, there is and always must be some limit, express or implied, as a standard beyond which the people may properly, indeed should, consider peacetime taxation to amount to impermissible confiscation and therefore oppression and tax-tyranny. Otherwise a mockery is made of the fundamental American principle of limited government. One general test which is unchallengeable, under a system of constitutionally limited government, is this: any and every aspect of taxation which is designed to provide financial support for any governmental activity which involves abuse of granted power, or usurpation of ungranted power, merits condemnation as tax-tyranny.
9. It is a cardinal principle of the traditional American philosophy that taxes must be limited to safeguard Individual Liberty--to make and keep secure Man's unalienable rights and Posterity's just heritage of Liberty: Freedom from Government-over-Man.
Quotes from The American Ideal of 1776 supporting this Principle.
A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy
10. Private Property--Liberty's Support
[Americans] ". . . are entitled to life, liberty and property . . ." (Declaration of Rights by First Continental Congress, 1774)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that Man possesses the right to property as an indispensable support, the principal material support, of his God-given, unalienable rights (notably the right to Liberty) specified in the Declaration of Independence.
Part of Economic Liberty
2. This right to property is a main part of economic liberty, which is the inseparable and indispensable aspect of the indivisible whole of Individual Liberty, according to this philosophy. Without economic liberty, the other parts of Individual Liberty are lacking in material support and therefore, for practicable purposes, cannot be defended adequately or securely enjoyed enduringly. This right to property in any form--money or any other type--includes all aspects such as acquiring, using, possessing, protecting and disposing of it. Man's unalienable right to Life necessarily involves his derivative right to property, in support of his right to sustain his own life and the lives of his dependents; which requires, in part, acquiring and using food and various other kinds of property necessary to existence or conducive to full enjoyment of God-given, unalienable rights in varied and innumerable ways.
The Underlying Reason
3. The American philosophy teaches that the fact that Man is endowed by his Creator with the Right to be self-governing, as the Declaration of Independence proclaims, means implicitly that Man is also endowed with the capacity to reason and, therefore, with the capacity to be self-governing--under a system of Man-over-Government--for the better protection and enjoyment of his unalienable rights. This, in turn, means necessarily that Man is endowed with the capacity of being economically self-reliant and independent, without the need of being supported by his creature and tool: government. This is true because to be supported by government would mean to be subject to its control under a system of Government-over-Man; control inevitably accompanies subsidy. As part of his Divine endowment at birth, Man therefore possesses both the right and the capacity to manage his own economic affairs, including his own capability to work in order to support life and his rights in general by acquiring property (money or any other type), free from any degree of Government-over-Man control, directly or indirectly. Any contrary conclusion would inescapably, condemn Man to a birthright of servitude to government, which philosophy rejects as being inconsistent with Divine Creation. This philosophy also teaches that Man is entitled to enjoy this right and to exercise this capability without any interference by others than government as well. The foregoing is subject, of course, to due respect for the equal rights of others and for just laws expressive of "just powers" (to quote the term of the Declaration of Independence) designed to safeguard the equal rights of all Individuals.
The View of The Framers, per "The Federalist"
4. The American philosophy is clear and emphatic on the point that the surest way for Man to become economically dependent upon, and therefore subservient to, government is for it to control or possess his property, or to subsidize him. This is because of the truth stated in The Federalist (number 79, by Alexander Hamilton) that: "In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." (Emphasis Hamilton's) This truth is also commonly acknowledged in the maxim that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" and it applies especially to a person's income.
The Means of Self-defense
5. This is all the more true to the extent that government controls, or takes from him, his property--not only his current earnings, or income, but also his accumulated savings represented by his property in general. The more government controls or takes from him, and the less Man possesses and controls, the worse his plight in the face of Government-over-Man practices infringing his unalienable rights. This deprives him of the means of self-defense, of defense of his rights, against violations by government and by others. Lacking such means, his rights are always in danger of being violated or undermined with impunity by transgressors--either oppressive or usurping government officials, or covetously inclined persons who are disregardful of the limits on their own equal rights and are heedless of the duty factor of Individual Liberty-Responsibility, which requires them to respect the equal rights of others.
Property Needed for Defense of Man's Rights
6. According to the American philosophy, Man's purpose in creating governments is primarily "to secure"--to make and keep secure--his unalienable rights, as the Declaration of Independence phrases it. A chief aim of man in this regard is to provide governmental (legal) machinery which can be readily available to each Individual for establishing and maintaining his legal right to his own property and for the equal protection of all Individuals' property under equal laws (basically the people's fundamental laws--their Constitutions, Federal and State). To be able to make effective use of this legal machinery, however, Man needs property (money) to pay the cost.
The 1776 Declaration and the Word "Property"
7. In the years leading up to the American Revolution of 1776, the slogan of the "Sons of Liberty"--most ardent of patriots--was: "Liberty and property." Another popular phrase used throughout America in that period to describe Man's most precious rights, used for example in the "Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress" in 1774, was: "life, liberty and property." This combination of ideas--expressed with regard to protection of Man's " . . . life . . . person . . . goods or estate . . ."--appeared in America at least by 1641 in Massachusetts in: "The Body of Liberties." This was a law code compiled by Nathaniel Ward, in response to public protests against the arbitrary decisions by judges, and adopted by the Massachusetts General Court, the legislative body of the colony. In the phrase of the Declaration of Independence adopted in 1776--"Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" - the substitution of the phrase "the pursuit of Happiness," in place of the word "property" customarily used theretofore, assuredly did not mean that the signers of the Declaration disapproved of the idea of the right to property being considered a most important right of Man. Quite the contrary is true, as all pertinent records amply prove. A number of these signers were owners of large and valuable property holdings--for example, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Morris, Charles Carroll, Richard Henry Lee and Arthur Middleton, to name only a few. They did, indeed, risk great fortunes, as well as their lives and honor, in signing the 1776 Declaration--as its closing pledge made express, in words made immortal by the exemplary selflessness, the noble self-sacrifice, of these true friends of Independence for America and of Man's Liberty against Government-over-Man. The wealthy of that generation were fully matched by those of little or no means, such as Samuel Adams, in the fervor of belief in, and support of, the right to property as a fundamental part of the Individual's rights. It is noteworthy that among the signers of the Declaration were some who had been members of the above-mentioned First Continental Congress in 1774; and all the signers undoubtedly shared the then popular support of the slogan: "Life, Liberty and Property" as being expressive of the gist of Man's fundamental rights. The emphasis in their thinking regarding the right to property was later reflected in the safeguarding provision included in the "Bill of Rights" amendments to the United States Constitution--in the Fifth Amendment, stating: ". . . nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." This is expressive of the American philosophy.
The omission of the word "property" from the 1776 Declaration was, presumably, because the right to property was considered by America's leaders in general to be not a primary, God-given, unalienable right--not on a par spiritually with the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"--but an essential legal right, a most important supporting right as the material mainstay of Man's unalienable rights including Liberty against Government-over-Man.
An Essential Means, Not an End in and of Itself
8. The right to property is accordingly considered not an end, in and of itself, but an indispensable means needed to sustain Life itself and for the protection and fuller enjoyment of the rights to Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The right to property is, therefore, of critical importance to Free Man, whether considered as a supporting right or--as some in 1776 occasionally referred to it--as an unalienable right, a Natural Right.
The concept of the property right being derived from every Individual's natural right to Liberty--of its thus being a derivative right rather than a primary, God-given, unalienable right--was expressed for example in an oration in Boston on March 5, 1775 by Dr. Joseph Warren, a leader among the more prominent workers and fighters for Liberty and Independence, as follows:
"That personal freedom is the natural right of every man, and that property, or an exclusive right to dispose of what he has honestly acquired by his own labor, necessarily arises therefrom, are truths which common sense has placed beyond the reach of contradiction." (Emphasis added.)
Warren and his fellow leaders in favor of "Liberty and Independence," in Boston especially in that pre-1776 period, were undoubtedly in agreement on this point of derivativeness: "necessarily arises therefrom"--notably Samuel Adams who was very closely associated with Warren in supporting this cause. Adams presumably meant nothing different when he sometimes referred to the right to property as being of the nature of a "Natural Right."
Property Supports Ideals
9. Man's right to property is the principal material support of the idealism of the traditional American philosophy--the idealism of Free Man in America. This idealism would be empty of substance in the absence of the protection provided by such support; it could not be translated into reality and sustained enduringly.
10. The American philosophy asserts that Man's right to property is a main, indispensable and inseparable part of the indivisible whole of Individual Liberty-Responsibility and the material mainstay of his unalienable right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Quotes from The American Ideal of 1776 supporting this Principle.
A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy
9. Liberty - Against Government-over-Man
". . . unalienable rights, that among these are . . . Liberty . . ." (Declaration of Independence)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that the God-given, unalienable right of Man to "Liberty" means primarily Freedom from Government-over-Man--or, otherwise stated, Liberty against Government-over-Man.
The Broader Definition
2. This is the primary meaning of the word "Liberty" as used in the Declaration of Independence and in the Preamble of the United States Constitution. In this fundamental law of the people, The Framers sought to translate into enduring governmental reality, to the maximum practicable extent, the ideals and principles of that 1776 Declaration. They stated in the Preamble the goals to be served by the central (Federal) government in its use of the powers granted to it by the people, as enumerated in the body of that basic law. The word "Liberty" also means, of course, freedom of The Individual from interference or coercion by other Individuals in the enjoyment of his unalienable rights and of the supporting rights. Individual Liberty is an indivisible whole.
3. According to this philosophy, Liberty must always be taken to mean Individual Liberty-Responsibility, with emphasis upon the duty of respecting the equal rights of others and just laws expressive of "just powers" (to quote the term of the Declaration of Independence) designed to safeguard the equal rights of all Individuals. Individual Liberty-Responsibility involves the self-governing Individual's being burdened with the duties underlying his share of the responsibility for their safety of the Liberty of all Individuals, and of their other unalienable rights. Lacking such a sense of responsibility, Liberty can readily degenerate into license. Individual Liberty-Responsibility denotes that challenging freedom which tests the courage and wisdom of Free Man because of the truth that:
Only the brave dares to be--only the wise can remain--Free Man
By accepting the challenge, performing the duties, of
Individual Liberty-Responsibility under constitutionally limited government.
Freedom of Choice
4. The Liberty of Free Man is basically the Liberty of freedom of choice, with due respect for the equal rights of others. Without this freedom, Man cannot really be free, nor can there be any moral value or merit in his actions because they are not voluntary, not a true self-expression, not based on unfettered election between right and wrong, between good and evil, in the light of conscience and his personal moral code. An example of freedom of choice is freedom of association--for instance, freedom to join, or not to join, any particular organization (such as an organization of employers or of employees) without compulsion by government or by any others. This means any organization for a lawful purpose--not a conspiracy to commit murder, for example, and not a conspiratorial, subversive organization such as the Kremlin-controlled Communist ("Party") conspiracy which aims to subvert the United States government and all other American governments as well as to destroy all traditional American values; as to which the overt act of joining the conspiracy is the main factor creating guilt by association of persons, not of ideas. (Discussed also in Par. 6 of Principle 4 and Par. 9 of Principle 7.)
The "Self" Factors of Free Men
5. Liberty means Man's freedom which characterizes a wisely and soundly self-governing people, determined to live up fully to high ideals in the enjoyment of The Individual's rights and in the performance of the accompanying duties defined by these essential elements of the philosophy of truly Free Man:
(1) the spiritual: self-respect; (2) the economic: self-reliance; (3) the political-social: self-discipline.
These are the "self" factors characteristic of the self-governing and genuine Free Man.
6. Fundamentally, self-respect stems from Man's realization of the truth that the Spiritual is supreme and that he is of Divine creation, therefore possessed of a spiritual nature; and that The Individual is therefore of supreme dignity and value. Self-respect is fostered and evidenced by The Individual's striving to maintain the integrity of his unalienable rights. This is manifested partly by insisting that government as well as others respect them--in keeping with the requirements of constitutionally limited government. It is further manifested by his dedication to his own unceasing growth in the fuller realization of his own highest potential--spiritually, morally and intellectually, in every aspect of life.
7. Self-reliance in the economic field--of the essence of Individual Liberty-Responsibility--is an essential characteristic of Free Man. This is true because dependence upon government for economic support inescapably saps the independence of Man's spirit, robs him of the inspiration and inclination to be individually venturesome and self-reliant, and undermines his willingness and capacity to oppose developments of a Government-over-Man nature including violation by government of the unalienable rights of himself and others. Such violation can be brought about by use of force, or by inducement through subsidy by government which is inescapably accompanied by control. As The Federalist (number 79, by Alexander Hamilton) soundly states: "In the general course of human nature, a power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." (Emphasis Hamilton's.) This truth, in keeping with the adage that "he who pays the piper calls the tune" as well as with the dictates of common sense born of experience, was acknowledged by the United States Supreme Court when it stated (1936 Butler case) that: "The power to confer or withhold unlimited benefits is the power to coerce or destroy." Firm belief in the supreme value of Liberty--to the complete subordination always of economic security to Liberty's well-being--and consistent action in support of this belief, are always chief characteristics of every American who is worthy of his heritage of Free Man.
8. Self-discipline involves, in main part, The Individual's faithful performance of the duties underlying Individual Liberty-Responsibility, in keeping with the truth that there can be no Right apart from Duty, no Liberty or Freedom apart from Responsibility. The self-discipline of the self-governor is the alternative to being disciplined and controlled by government. Self discipline by The Individual, by respecting the boundary line separating his rights from the equal rights of others, provides the requisite moral basis for prohibiting violation by them of his own rights. Self-discipline, in the political-social realm, is a principle characteristic of Free Man among Free Men in an enduring and ethical environment of freedom. This is the only environment in which Individual Liberty can be secure and flourish.
As to each Individual among a self-governing people under constitutionally limited government, self-discipline involves self-control with regard to making demands upon government. The inherent duties require that nothing be done to help induce government to violate the limits of its powers or corresponding responsibilities as defined in the people's fundamental law: the Constitution, regardless of any seeming benefits temporarily. Such sound conduct is required, in part, in order to help to influence others soundly by proper example in keeping with the moral precept that, in this limited but important sense as to things governmental, each Individual is his "brother's keeper."
Liberty's Two-fold Meaning
9. Liberty is expressive of that within Free Man which reflects the essence of his mind and spirit--of his very soul, in the religious sense implicit in the uniquely American concept of Man's being endowed by his creator with unalienable rights. This is what was meant when American leaders of 1776-1787 used the word "Liberty"--for instance, Patrick Henry in his famed cry "Give me liberty or give me death." This is what was meant by Benjamin Franklin in his profoundly true statement in 1759 that: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Such convictions typify Americans. These spokesmen for Free Man in America meant primarily Man's Liberty against Government-over-Man. Included also, of course, is Man's right to freedom from violation of his rights by others than government--by any person, group or organization. The "safety" to which Franklin referred can soundly be said to include also the economic aspect: economic security provided by government--always involving sacrifice of Liberty, in varying degree, however subtle or disguised.
The Lofty Challenge
10. The signers of the Declaration of Independence elevated Patrick Henry's glowing expression of this loftiest of sentiments regarding Liberty to the highest reaches of the human mind and spirit when they closed this 1776 Declaration's uniquely American message, to American Posterity and to all mankind, with these immortal words:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor."
On a similarly high plane, President Washington's First Inaugural Address defined the great opportunity and responsibility of the American people - as custodians of Individual Liberty-Responsibility in history's first example of a soundly conceived and adequately founded Republic (defined, for example, in Par. 6 of Principle 5) embracing an entire country and its people. His inspiring words were:
". . . the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty. and the destiny of the Republic model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally stated, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." (Emphasis Washington's)
(True Republics had been formed in Mass., 1780, and N.H., 1784.) This profound message to all generations of Americans emphasizes their true role and opportunity in relations with other peoples: to seek to influence them chiefly by sound example, as successful self-governors ever faithful to the Constitution's spirit and letter, as never faltering Friends of Individual Liberty--of Man's Freedom from Government-over-Man.
11. The American philosophy teaches that Individual Liberty is indivisible and for one and all, or for none, in the long run--that the American choice is: Individual Liberty in full, for one and all, always.
Quotes from The American Ideal of 1776 supporting this Principle.
A Principle of The Traditional American Philosophy
8. Life and the Pursuit of Happiness
". . . unalienable Rights, that among these are Life . . . and the pursuit of Happiness." (Declaration of Independence)
1. The traditional American philosophy teaches that the words "Life" and "the pursuit of Happiness," as used in the Declaration of Independence, are so inclusive as to defy precise definition.
Ever Changing Nature of Goals, etc.
2. This is because they mean the right to Life to be lived, and Happiness to be sought, in keeping with the fundamentals of Man's Liberty against Government-over-Man, according to each Individual's own goals, tastes, aspirations and ideals which are themselves in an ever-changing state of development--from childhood to life's end.
Definition Emphasizes Self-development, Self-discipline
3. "Life" thus means infinitely more than mere continued physical existence. "Happiness" lies in freedom of opportunity of The Individual--chiefly Freedom from Government-over-Man--to strive to realize to the full his own highest potential with regard to all aspects of life. "Happiness" is not a condition but an ideal of ever-changing aspirations, of an ever-expanding vision of self-fulfillment through self-realization and through self-development spiritually, morally, intellectually, in every respect. This ideal and vision are incapable of ever being fully defined, much less completely realized. It is a never-ending process of inner growth, not something external to be pursued and possessed. It is comparable to the horizon--ever-widening, as viewed from peak to higher peak of attainment with heightened understanding. As the sages of all ages have taught, true happiness--as distinguished from mere satisfaction of desires--is to be achieved primarily through such self-development and growth, with each Individual's progress depending on his own state of being and capacity. This can come mainly through service of lofty goals, whether subjective and personal or objective in character, which are conducive to broadening vision and unceasing effort toward achievement. Each Individual's standard of happiness to be sought for self is fundamentally subjective--not subject to external pressures or controls of any sort from any source, least of all by government, and not subject to being judged by others on any comparative basis, however seemingly eccentric or inadequate in their opinion.
The particular rights to "Life" and to "the pursuit of Happiness," like all of the others among Man's God-given, unalienable rights, are subject to the requirements of the duty factor of Individual Liberty-Responsibility under constitutionally limited government, including especially the observance of due respect for the equal rights of others. This involves self-discipline under self-government's system of Rule-by-Law (basically the people's fundamental law, the Constitution). Self-discipline is the alternative to being disciplined.
Innumerable Things of Limitless Scope
4. The things embraced by these words of the Declaration of Independence: "Life" and "the pursuit of Happiness," are innumerable and limitless in scope. They are as incapable of being fully listed and bounded as are the things embraced by that basic freedom: freedom of choice--the freedom to do or not to do--among life's innumerable possibilities hour by hour, day by day, life-long.
The Key: Voluntary Cooperation Based on Spiritual Unity
5. According to the American philosophy, voluntary cooperation among Individuals and groups of Individuals is the key to expression, in the multitudinous ways of Free Men, of the spirit of harmonious and progressive community life in the ethical environment of a sound society, as part of the enjoyment of the right to "Life" and to "the pursuit of happiness." This means, of course, so long as their aims are not violative of the equal rights of others or of just laws expressive of "just powers" (to quote the term of the Declaration of Independence) designed to safeguard the equal rights of all Individuals. Such cooperation is, in truth, an outgrowth of inner unity and harmony among Men born of Man's spiritual nature--of spiritual brotherhood in the light of the common Fatherhood of God. This is a part of equal freedom for each and every Individual in the separate enjoyment of Life and the pursuit of Happiness, with each one responding voluntarily, from unfettered personal choice only, in any associative or cooperative activity socially, economically, religiously, or politically. Here "voluntary" highlights the key element.
The Practical Application Typical of Americans
6. The American philosophy teaches that in practice this pertains, for example, to charitable, philanthropic, educational, religious, fraternal and other community activities--local, regional, and national. Among such activities by Individuals, illustrations of traditional American practices in neighborhood and community are providing help on the local level for the needy (who are incapable of self-help) as an expression of the benevolent spirit of charity, as well as providing aid to Individuals and institutions in the fields of education, medicine (health), religion and child welfare. The American scene has traditionally been characterized by such a free, generously full, self-fulfilling and unceasing display of this practical idealism of voluntary cooperation for group and community welfare--on such a massive scale within, as well as among, communities generally on a country-wide basis--as to be a highly distinctive feature of American life which elevates its moral tone and, when understood, causes admiration throughout the civilized world. It constitutes, in practice, a vital part of the American concept of Individual Liberty-Responsibility, expressive of The Individual's self-defined duty based on a personal moral code founded on religious-moral considerations and also stemming from the fundamental American idealism of Free Man. The prime motive here is one of Man's loftiest attainments morally and spiritually: compassion for his fellow-man, which ennobles the concept of charity--aid given by the Individual to others.
7. To be spiritual and moral, this cooperation--in the enjoyment of the right to "Life" and "the pursuit of Happiness"--must never be in any degree involuntary. It must be wholly free from any element of interference or coercion, direct or indirect, by government or by others. If not voluntary, it amounts to seeking a false goal such as "forced brotherly love"--a concept which is self-contradictory. If not voluntary, it can have no relationship to truly moral and spiritual values underlying the principle of Man's concern for the well-being of his fellow-man. The moral and the spiritual, as opposed to coercion, are mutually exclusive. Coerced unity, forced togetherness, can only be external and create increased conflict and separateness because true unity, which is inner or spiritual unity, is possible only among the free in spirit--among genuinely Free Men.
No Sacrifice of Any Right of Any Individual
8. In connection with the meaning of the right to "Life" and to "the pursuit of Happiness," the American philosophy defines the common good, or the general welfare, as being fundamentally and principally the sum of the well-being of all Individuals acting voluntarily--alone as well as cooperatively--in the separate and full enjoyment of their equal, unalienable rights, especially the right to freedom of choice. It cannot be saved by any sacrifice of any of these rights of any Individual--for example, by any subordination of any of them to any Government-over-Man philosophy's goals, or coercive system. Any sacrifice of any right of any Individual is morally wrong. It is also dangerous potentially to all rights of all Individuals and, therefore, threatens grave injury to the general welfare, to the common good, which depends basically upon observance of due respect for the equal rights of each and every Individual. Thus to victimize any Individual as to any of his rights--through either government coercion, or by pressures by other Individuals socially, economically, or otherwise--is to victimize potentially every Individual because this sets a precedent which is conducive to later disregard of the rights of others, to Individual Liberty's peril if not grave injury.
The End Does Not Justify the Means
9. No matter how "good" the end may seem to be, there could not possibly be any justification for the use of evil means in pursuing it. The precedent of doing so in one instance could not but be evil and breed evil. No action or pronouncement by government contrary to those guiding precepts could have any validity morally or constitutionally under the American philosophy and system of constitutionally limited government designed primarily to make and keep secure the equal rights of all Individuals.
What Is Not Meant
10. Among the things excluded by the word "Happiness" (of The Individual), under the traditional American philosophy, is any element of Government's providing economic support, or security, for the people--of Government's assuming the role, the authority and responsibility, of satisfying their material desires. Such a role for Government would have been considered by The Founders and their fellow Americans to be the very antithesis of, as utterly hostile to, the American philosophy of Man-over-Government. When they expressed ideas such as that "The Happiness of society is the first law of every government"--as stated, for example, by James Wilson--they contemplated primarily and mainly Government's fulfilling its assigned role, as the creature and instrument of the people, as defined and limited in the Declaration of Independence: to make and keep secure the God-given, unalienable rights of The Individual. This means, above all else, Government's operating strictly and invariably within the confines of its limited, enumerated powers as prescribed by the sovereign people in their fundamental law, the Constitution, through which they create their tool: Government. This is designed to serve the basic goal: of Government's being conducted by all public officials--within the prescribed limits of their respective spheres of constitutional authority and responsibility--so as to ensure to the maximum the people's freedom to enjoy their unalienable rights, notably their right to Liberty: The Individual's Freedom from Government-over-Man. The word "Happiness" and the term "pursuit of Happiness"--as used in the Declaration of Independence and by The Founders and their fellow Americans--exclude everything in conflict with the foregoing considerations.
11. The American philosophy teaches that the conception of how best to enjoy the benefits of the right to "Life" and to "the pursuit of Happiness" is a strictly personal matter for each Individual as Free Man--free in mind and spirit as well as in body and acting consistently with the duties of Individual Liberty-Responsibility, including chiefly the duty of respecting the equal rights (basically the constitutional rights) of others--to the exclusion of any coercion by government or by others.
Quotes from The American Ideal of 1776 supporting this Principle.