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The Rights of the People

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    On the reverse side of the great seal of the United States there is a Latin inscription-Novus Ordo Scclorum-meaning “A New Order of Things.” This new order of things was designed and accomplished in the American Revolution, which was the expression of two distinct ideas: First, that government is of the people; and, second, that government is of right entirely separate from religion.ROP 51.1

    These two ideas are but the result of the one grand fundamental principle, the chief corner stone of American institutions, which is the rights of the people.ROP 51.2

    This is briefly comprehended, and nobly expressed, in the following words of the Declaration of Independence:-ROP 51.3

    “We hold these truths to he self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that when any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”ROP 51.4

    Thus in two sentences was annihilated the despotic doctrine, which had become venerable, if not absolutely hallowed, by the precedents of a thousand years-the doctrine of the divine right of rulers; and in the place of the old falsehood, and despotic theory, of the sovereignty of the government and the subjection of the people, there was declared, to all nations and for all time, the self-evident truth and divine principle of the subjection of the government and the sovereignty of the people.ROP 51.5

    In declaring the equal and inalienable right of all men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that governments derived their just powers from the consent of the governed, there is not only declared the sovereignty of the people, but also the entire capability of the people. The declaration, in itself, presupposes that men are men indeed, and that as such they are fully capable of deciding for themselves as to what is best for their happiness, and how they shall pursue it, without the government’s being set up as a parent or guardian to deal with them as with children.ROP 52.1

    In declaring that governments are instituted by the governed, for certain ends, and that when any government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness, it is likewise declared that, instead of the people’s needing to be cared for by the government, the government must be cared for by the people.ROP 52.2

    In declaring the objects of government to be to secure to the people the rights which they already possess in full measure and inalienable degree, and to effect their safety and happiness in the enjoyment of those rights; and in declaring the right of the people, in the event named, to alter or abolish the government which they have, and institute a new one on such principles and in such form as to them seems best; there is likewise declared not only the complete subordination but also the absolute impersonality of government. It is therein declared that the government is but a device, a piece of political machinery, framed and set up by the people, by which they would make themselves secure in the enjoyment of the inalienable rights which they already possess as men, and which they have by virtue of being men in society and not by virtue of government-the right which was theirs before government was, which is their own in the essential meaning of the term, and “which they do not hold by any sub-infendation, but by direct homage and allegiance to the Owner and Lord of all” (Stanley Matthews 2In argument in Cincinnati case, Minor et al., on “Bible in the public Schools.” p. 241.), their Creator, who has endowed them with those rights. And in thus declaring the impersonality of government, there is wholly uprooted every vestige of any character of paternity in the government.ROP 52.3

    In declaring the equality of all men in the possession of these inalienable rights, there is likewise declared the strongest possible safeguard of the people. For, this being the declaration of the people, each one of the people stands thereby pledged to the support of the principle thus declared. Therefore, each individual is pledged, in the exercise of his own inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so to act as not to interfere with any other person in the free and perfect exercise of his inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any person who so acts as to restrict or interfere with the free exercise of any other person’s right to life, or liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, denies the principle, to the maintenance of which he is pledged, and does in effect subvert the government. For, rights being equal, if one may so act, every other one may do so; and thus no man’s right is recognized, government is gone, and only anarchy remains.ROP 53.1

    Therefore, by every interest, personal as well as general, private as well as public, every individual among the people is pledged in the enjoyment of his right to life, or liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, so to conduct himself as not to interfere in the least degree with the equal right of every other one to the free and full exercise of his enjoyment of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “For the rights of man, as man, must be understood in a sense that can admit of no single exception; for to allege an exception is the same thing as to deny the principle. We reject, therefore, with scorn, any profession of respect to the principle which, in fact, comes to us dogged and contradicted by a petition for an exception.... To profess the principle and then to plead for an exception, let the plea be what it may, is to deny the principle, and it is to utter a treason against humanity. The rights of man must everywhere all the world over be recognized and respected.”—Isaac Taylor. 3Quoted by Stanley Matthews, Id., p. 242.ROP 53.2

    The Declaration of Independence, therefore, announces the perfect principle of civil government. If the principle thus announced were perfectly conformed to by all, then the government would be a perfect civil government. It is but the principle of self-government-government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And to the extent to which this principle is exemplified among the people, to the extent to which the individual governs himself, just to that extent and no further will prevail the true idea of the Declaration, and the republic which it created.ROP 54.1

    Such is the first grand idea of the American Revolution. And it is the scriptural idea, the idea of Jesus Christ and of God. Let this be demonstrated.ROP 54.2

    The Declaration holds that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. Now the Creator of all men is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and “is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also.” And as he “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26), “there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:11).ROP 54.3

    Nor is this the doctrine of the later Scripture only; it is the doctrine of all the Book. The most ancient writings in the Book have these words: “If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with me; what then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him?” Job 31:13-15. And, “The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward; he doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger.” Deuteronomy 10:17-19. “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.” Leviticus 19:34.ROP 55.1

    All men are indeed created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.ROP 55.2

    And this is the American doctrine,-the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. In the discussions which brought forth the Declaration and developed the Revolution, the doctrine found expression in the following forceful and eloquent words:-ROP 55.3

    “Government is founded not on force, as was the theory of Hobbes; nor on compact, as was the theory of Locke, and of the revolution of 1688; nor on property, as was asserted by Harrington. It springs from the necessities of our nature, and has an everlasting foundation in the unchangeable will of God. Man came into the world and into society at the same instant. There must exist in every earthly society a supreme sovereign, from whose final decision there can be no appeal but directly to heaven. This supreme power is originally and ultimately in the people; and the people never did in fact freely, nor can rightfully make unlimited renunciation of this divine right. Kingcraft and priestcraft are a trick to gull the vulgar. The happiness of mankind demands that this grand and ancient alliance should be broken off forever.ROP 55.4

    “The omniscient and omnipotent Monarch of the universe has, by the grand charter given to the human race, placed the end of government in the good of the whole. The form of government is left to the individuals of each society; its whole superstructure and administration should be conformed to the law of universal reason. There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature and the grant of God Almighty, who has given all men a right to be free. If every prince since Nimrod had been a tyrant, it would not prove a right to tyrannize. The administrators of legislative and executive authority, when they verge toward tyranny, are to be resisted; if they prove incorrigible, are to be deposed.ROP 55.5

    “The first principle and great end of government being to provide for the best good of all the people, this can be done only by a supreme legislative and executive, ultimately in the people, or whole community, where God has placed it; but the difficulties attending a universal congress gave rise to a right of representation. Such a transfer of the power of the whole to a few was necessary; but to bring the powers of all into the hands of one or some few, and to make them hereditary, is the interested work of the weak and the wicked. Nothing but life and liberty are actually hereditable. The grand political problem is to invent the best combination of the powers of legislation and execution. They must exist in the State, just as in the revolution of the planets; one power would fix them to a center, and another carry them off indefinitely; but the first and simple principle is equality and the power of the whole....ROP 56.1

    “The British colonists do not hold their liberties or their lands by so slippery a tenure as the will of the prince. Colonists are men, the common children of the same Creator with their brethren of Great Britain. The colonists are men; the colonists are therefore freeborn; for, by the law of nature, all men are freeborn, white or black. No good reason can be given for enslaving those of any color. Is it right to enslave a man because his color is black, or his hair short and curled like wool, instead of Christian hair? Can any logical inference in favor of slavery be drawn from a flat nose or a long or short face? The riches of the West Indies, or the luxury of the metropolis, should not have weight to break the balance of truth and justice. Liberty is the gift of God, and cannot be annihilated.ROP 56.2

    “Nor do the political and civil rights of the British Colonies rest on a charter from the crown. Old Magna Charta was not the beginning of all things, nor did it rise on the borders of chaos out of the unformed mass. A time may come when Parliament shall declare every American charter void; but the natural, inherent, and inseparable rights of the colonists, as men and as citizens, can never be abolished. The world is at the eve of the highest scene of earthly power and grandeur that has ever yet been displayed to the view of mankind. Who will win the prize, is with God. But human nature must and will be rescued from the general slavery that has so long triumphed over the species.”-James Otis. 4Quoted In Bancroft’s “History of the United States,” Vol. III, chapter 7, par. 21-41.ROP 56.3

    Thus spoke an American “for his country and for the race,” bringing to “the conscious intelligence of the people the elemental principles of free government and human rights.” Outside of the theocracy of Israel, there never has been a ruler or an executive on earth whose authority was not, primarily or ultimately, expressly or permissively, derived from the people.ROP 57.1

    The conclusion of the whole matter, the end of all that can be said, is that, where the Declaration of Independence says that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, it asserts the eternal truth of god.ROP 57.2

    In a previous chapter we have shown that the Constitution of the United States is the only form of government that has ever been on earth which is in harmony with the principle announced by Christ, demanding of men only that which is Cæsar’s and refusing to enter in any way into the field of man’s relationship to God. This Constitution originated in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and here we have found that the Declaration of Independence, on this point simply asserts the truth of God. The American people do not half appreciate the value of the Constitution under which they live. They do not honor in any fair degree the noble men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, that these principles might be the heritage of posterity. All honor to these noble men! All integrity to the principles of the Declaration of Independence! All allegiance to the Constitution as it was made, which gives to Cæsar all his due, and leaves men free to render to God all that he, in his holy word, requires of them!ROP 57.3

    So much for the principle.ROP 57.4

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