Let’s start with a shocking, but true premise: If you are a patriotic American, you believe that there are circumstances under which it is right to take up arms against your own government. That statement feels wrong to me. It reeks of militia and McVeigh and toothless loons holed up with guns in cabins in order to avoid paying income taxes.
But the fact remains that the rationale for the existence of the nation known as the United States of America, which first appeared in print 238 years ago today, is entirely dependent on the premise that there are indeed times “…when in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…” and that such times may require the first group of people to “…mutually pledge to each other [their] Lives, [their] Fortunes and [their] sacred Honor.” And that having dissolved those political bands with another people, the newly liberated people (“…and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War…”) may, among other things, protect themselves from a tyrannical power which engages in “…a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object [which] evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism…”
This is the argument presented to the world by Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin. It was adopted and approved by the Continental Congress. It has been graphically represented in the Great Seal of the United States and it is treated as the origin of the American Republic not just in the Declaration of Independence itself, but also in the Constitution.
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