When Americans Understood the Declaration of Independence
The Fourth of July was not always a national celebration of the militarization of American society and of the federal government’s never-ending quest for world domination (disguised as “defending our interests abroad”). Americans did not always attend church services on the Sunday before the Fourth of July to “honor” their “military heroes” and pray that they may kill many more human beings in other countries that have done them no harm. Americans once actually read and understood the Declaration of Independence for what it was: a declaration of secession from the British empire and a roadmap for opposing a highly centralized, militaristic empire of the sort the U.S. government has become.
The Declaration of Independence was the ultimate secessionist or states’ rights document. “Governments are instituted among men,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, for the sole purpose of securing God-given, “unalienable” rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Moreover, governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed” and nowhere else. And “whenever 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 new Government . . .”
The way in which “the People” were to express their consent (or lack thereof) was through state and local political organizations. Hence, in the final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson wrote that: “We . . . the Representatives of the united States of America . . . are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
It is important to note that the word “united” is not capitalized but “States” is, and that the individual states are described as “Free and Independent.” Thus, the free, independent, and sovereign states were united in the cause of secession from the British empire. The phrase “united States” did not mean, and does not mean in any of the founding documents, the “United States government,” as is commonly believed today. It is always in the plural to signify that the free and independent states are united in their common cause of protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To Jefferson and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, each American state was sovereign in the same sense that Great Britain, France, and Spain were sovereign states. It was through “representatives of the united States” that the consent of the people was to be expressed (or not).
It was Abraham Lincoln, who Murray Rothbard once described as a masterful “liar, conniver, and manipulator,” whose rhetoric began to fog the understanding of Americans of their Declaration of Independence. Lincoln’s twisted language in The Gettysburg Address that focused solely on the words “all men are created equal” in the Declaration, were designed to reinterpret the preeminent secessionist document as an anti-secessionist document. It was an attempt to fool Northern voters into believing in the absurd notion that he was a Jeffersonian.