When a committee of five, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson, drafted the Declaration of Independence 240 years ago, they didn’t merely pen a list of grievances against the British monarch and establish the rationale for American independence. They drafted the most foundational governing document of modern history, establishing the very essence of the relationship between man and government, the purpose of government, the contours of fundamental rights, and the source of those rights.
It is perhaps for this reason why we celebrate July 4, the day the official document was approved, rather than July 2, the day the Continental Congress actually declared independence. We are not only celebrating our national independence day but our God-given rights as individuals and as a society, as expressed in this extraordinary document. As Calvin Coolidge observed in his speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration, “It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history.”
While our Founders knew their independence was tenuous at best, none of them could have envisioned that their handiwork would someday be countermanded, not by the usurpation of a monarch, but by a society that collectively and cumulatively used that very document to promote the most antithetical values to the liberties they sought to preserve. They could never have envisioned a society that would use their own words to promote ideals that violate the most immutable self-evident truths of natural law and the will of nature’s God.
The Declaration is so much more than an expression of independence
In just 201 words of the preamble, Jefferson and his colleagues established six inviolate principles on the morality of a just governing system:
- That individuals are born with natural rights that come from God, not from historical precedent, English Common Law, or even the democratic whims of the majority in a given society.
- That chief among those natural rights given by God are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness to earn a living and own property. Implicit in this is the natural right to self-defense. As Sam Adams, the founding father of the American revolution, said, “Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.”
- That individuals form a government as a social compact to protect those inalienable rights from existing threats.
- That on issues not affecting inalienable rights, government may exercise other just powers, primarily for the safety and stability of the society, but only by the consent of the people as expressed through some legitimate form of republican representation (consent of the governed). Inherent in this principle is that no outside forces not controlled by the members of that society itself may determine the destiny of the society.
- That all men were created equal with regard to access and defense of those inalienable rights (not societal outcomes, privileges, or other human pursuits, an ideal which would run counter to natural law). Also, implicit in the preamble is that all members of a given society are equal in the right to self-governance in their respective society on their territory.
- That when a long train of abuses and usurpations of the aforementioned principles continues without any other recourse, the people have the right, indeed a duty, to rebel against the existing system.
After posting my July 4 manifesto last year, I was inspired to write Stolen Sovereignty, which will be released this month, to warn that over two centuries later, every one of those self-evident rights has been bastardized and supplanted by ideals and concepts that are antithetical to fundamental rights. Sadly, our political class has retroactively enshrined its agenda into our original document, even though it violates the laws of nature and nature’s God.
Consider the following ways these rights have been twisted:
- Individuals have no property rights to conduct their business according to their religious conscience, which is the most sacred property right according to Madison. That inalienable right must now yield to a rabid homosexual and transgender agenda that violates natural law in its most literal sense. Self-evident natural rights must now genuflect to nature-defying court-made rights to force individuals to serve same-sex ceremonies or allow men into female bathrooms and, in general, eradicate any recognition of inherent natural differences between the sexes.
- States no longer have the power to define marriage or even gender in the most basic natural law sense, yet they have the power to prevent citizens from exercising self-defense to protect their life and property and can regulate every aspect of one’s business and property.
- The self-evident natural law that all men are created equal in terms of access to the courts and the right to life, liberty and property, which was later codified in the 14th Amendment, is now used to violate natural law and mandate “equal” outcomes in every facet of life. This has included placing women in combat, men in female bathrooms, and those lacking proper skills or credentials for programs built upon meritocracy. The ideal that spoke to true equality has been corrupted to favor protected classes and violates the guarantee of equality in due process and property rights of private citizens and non-favored classes when their inalienable rights brush up against the super-rights of “super-citizens.” Private business owners must submit to Sharia demands by Muslim employees or patrons, but Christian business owners cannot run their businesses in accordance with their own beliefs. Our government’s tendentious treatment of various classes has become so embedded in our culture that even our enemies know to not attack those protected classes because it will elicit a different response.
- The self-evident truth of popular sovereignty has been violated in every way imaginable. Our Founders declared independence because of taxation without representation. Nowadays, we are suffering from a much more odious violation of popular sovereignty: social transformation without representation. Madison explained in his Essay on Sovereignty that Republican government has the right to use majoritarian rule to act instead of “unanimous concurrence of the members” but “the reserved rights of individuals (of conscience for example) in becoming parties to the original compact being beyond the legitimate reach of sovereignty, wherever vested or however viewed.”
And in fact, it is the unelected branches of government, who do not have that legitimacy to act on behalf of the entire people as a majoritarian legislature does, that are violating the few inalienable rights that are outside of the reach of power of even the majority of elected representatives. It’s no coincidence that Madison used the example of “conscience” as a fundamental right outside the reach of majoritarian governance, yet it is courts along with state and federal bureaucrats that are promulgating anti-property and anti-conscience mandates, even against the popular will of those states.
Not only has the right to a republican form of government been taken away from us, it has been replaced with a tyrannical politburo – led by the judicial oligarchy – which countermands the rights expressed in the Declaration and governs us with values that are as far removed from those our Founders espoused imaginable.
As I explain in detail in Stolen Sovereignty, nowhere is the principle of governance by the consent of the governed violated more than in immigration policy. Our current immigration policy has no connection whatsoever to any legislation that was honestly sold to the public. In the case of illegal immigration, it is the result of the government failing to do its number one job – protect the sovereignty of the people. It is also the result of the courts granting illegal immigrants more rights to remain here, having their children vote in our elections and be counted in the census. In the case of odious legal immigration policies, the American people would never have voted for the 1965 or 1980 immigration and refugee bills had they been privy to the true motivations of those bills. In fact, those bills were sold as vehicles to stabilize immigration.
Madison made it clear that immigration can only be done with the legitimate consent of the people through representative democracy: “In the case of naturalization a new member is added to the social compact … by a majority of the governing body, deriving its powers from a majority of the individual parties to the social compact.” Yet illegal immigrants can now violate our laws, universally assert jurisdiction for their children, have their children vote in our elections, and spawn chain migration.
We have now come full circle when the few bedrock, inalienable rights that should be protected from majoritarian rule are not protected, while new super-rights are concocted against the will of the people for protected classes to immigrate under any circumstance. Nobody explained the principle of true equality and its consequences better than John Quincy Adams in an 1820 letter to a prospective German immigrant:
But there is one principle which pervades all the institutions of this country, and which must always operate as an obstacle to the granting of favors to new comers. This is a land, not of privileges, but of equal rights. Privileges are granted by European sovereigns to particular classes of individuals, for purposes of general policy; but the general impression here is that privileges granted to one denomination of people, can very seldom be discriminated from erosions of the rights of others.
The ideals and principles of fundamental rights are twisted beyond recognition, in many respects more profoundly than they were when our Founders took up arms to establish this very nation. King George could never have conjured up such social transformation without representation, nor did he violate the sovereignty of the colonies the way our unelected branches of government do today. Indeed, these abuses and usurpations are anything but the “light and transient causes” for which our Founders warned against rebellion.
It’s time to think beyond the next election
We are not only suffering from a constitutional crisis, one that undermines the document of 1789, we are ailing from a foundational crisis concerning the most self-evident truths of life, as established in 1776. It’s high time for our side to think longer and broader than merely the next election, for it is that short-sightedness that has allowed this cancer to metastasize and confront us with the severity of our current predicament. We must first recognize the severity of the problem and that we are not merely one Republican victory away from restoring our self-evident truths and fundamental rights. We need an all-of-the-above approach, never missing an opportunity to advance the cause of ordered liberty, sovereignty, and republicanism in the realm of policy, elections, and the culture. We must stop using "liberal military rules of engagement" in pursuit of constitutional conservatism; we must use George Patton’s rules of engagement and boldly go on offense against our enemy.
In order to prevent the imminent collapse of our most inalienable rights and our sovereignty as a nation-state and to preserve the ability of American citizens to still decide their own destiny on critical social and political issues of our time, I propose the following reforms in Stolen Sovereignty:
- Pass federal civil rights legislation protecting religious liberty and preventing states and courts from coercing individuals to serve anything with their private property or business that runs counter to their conscience. If we can’t protect the impetus for the Declaration and the war for independence from unelected branches of government, much less from “an entire nation,” then there is no point in having a federal union.
- Abolish birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, end chain migration, and stop counting illegal aliens in the Census. These are practices that completely disenfranchise the citizen, vitiate the principle of popular sovereignty, and place the destiny of this country in the hands of foreign nationals.
- Placing a moratorium on refugee resettlement or at least allowing states to reject resettlement in their jurisdiction.
- Repeal the motor voter law that has resulted in non-citizens voting en masse, as a result of state governments being required to issue voter registration opportunities to anyone who applies for a driver’s license.
- Strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over these critical issues and other vital policies dealing with society and sovereignty in a way that disenfranchises the people.
All of these reforms can be done statutorily. They address the most systemic and immediate problems inhibiting our ability to defend our individual and national sovereignty. If these issues are not dealt with in the next few years, liberty and property rights will be gone, the courts will control every facet of our lives, and demographics will become our destiny – all collectively precluding conservatives from even striving to change hearts and minds and win at the ballot box.
Reform the primary system: In the long run we must work toward restoring our original republican form of government, but in order to implement those ideas, we must first secure our men and women on the field and win over the current party system. We can’t implement our ideas if we have no political vehicle to reap the windfall of a public that hopefully becomes more sympathetic to our ideas. As I previously explained, the primary system is a lasting legacy of the progressives and should be replaced with representative conventions. This will allow us to elect a critical mass of individuals in a short enough time span who share our founding values so we can throw the ball down the field.
Reclaiming power for the states: We need to focus greater attention on electing better state representatives in red states. This will allow us to open up a new front and push back against federal tyranny on a state level. It will also lay the groundwork for getting states to promote constitutional amendments through the Article V process. If the shredding of fundamental rights and state powers continues, we will have to begin ignoring the federal government and pushing for civil disobedience. It is always better to have a unified state government doing so, as opposed to individual people. Focusing more of our resources on state officials will allow us to seek refuge in the protection of at least a handful of red states, a luxury we currently do not have because most red state-Republican parties are just as bad as D.C. Republicans.
Our Founders didn’t establish this system of governance looking no further than 2-4 years down the road. They played the long game. We must do the same if we hope to secure the republic for our posterity.
These are just a few ideas that we here at Conservative Review have been discussing over the past few months and I share in greater detail with the release of Stolen Sovereignty. More importantly, we all must challenge each other not to sit idly and complain, yet take no definitive action to redress these grievances in a meaningful way. We must not opt to “suffer, while evils are sufferable.” Those of us who work full-time in the public arena of political ideas must not view this as another desk job. Much like a frog in a boiling pot of water, the evils will eventually become insufferable, but it will be too late for action. At that point, our only recourse will be to actualize the final principle of the Declaration, something we would all rather avoid.
Let’s party like it’s 1776.
Editor's note: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this piece included an extraneous fragment in the last section. It has been removed.