If you could save one and only one, which would you save: the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence? If you chose the constitution, you were foolish, and made a fatal mistake. The constitution is nothing more than a vehicle; the Declaration is the map that tells you where you are supposed to be going. You can always find another means of transportation, but if you lose the map of where you are supposed to be going, you are likely to get lost. This is the problem for those who consider themselves to be “conservatives” and “constitutionalists:” both have gotten lost but, like all “real men,” they refuse to stop and ask for directions and attack those who try to help them find their way. And like those “real men,” their stubborn refusal to ask for and accept help is born of arrogance, pride and conceit.
If you are among those who think of yourself as a “conservative,” then understand this: that term has a specific philosophical definition. It means to conserve the political system that is currently in power. The political ideology was derived primarily from the work of Edmund Burke, and that man launched a spirited argument for the legality of allowing a corporation to buy the rights to 1/3 of the known world – including the people and their property. He went so far as to defend the Corporation’s “right” to buy the authority to “dispose of” those people as the Corporation wished – so long as it was “legal.” Is this what you think “conservatism” means today? If not, then think about that before you try to force Progressives, Socialists, Communists or any other Statist to accept the established definition of what they claim to believe. If you claim the right to redefine words, then you must grant that right to your opponent or be guilty of infringing on their right of conscience.
Or do you think “conservative” means you agree with the founding fathers political ideology? If that’s the case, then you must oppose corporations; support the public’s right to legislate over “excess wealth;” and the public’s right to tax the wealthy at a higher rate than the poor.
“All the property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”
–Benjamin Franklin, letter to Robert Morris, 25 December 1783, Ref: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 1
“A right of property in moveable things is admitted before the establishment of government. A separate property in lands, not till after that establishment. The right to moveables is acknowledged by all the hordes of Indians surrounding us. Yet by no one of them has a separate property in lands been yielded to individuals. He who plants a field keeps possession till he has gathered the produce, after which one has as good a right as another to occupy it. Government must be established and laws provided, before lands can be separately appropriated, and their owner protected in his possession. Till then, the property is in the body of the nation, and they, or their chief as trustee, must grant them to individuals, and determine the conditions of the grant.”
–Thomas Jefferson: Batture at New Orleans, 1812. ME 18:45
“Taxes should be proportioned to what may be annually spared by the individual.”
–Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784. FE 4:15, Papers 7:557
“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
–Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785. ME 19:18, Papers 8:682
You’ll have to accept government control over inheritance taxes, as well:
“If the overgrown wealth of an individual is deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra-taxation violates it.”
–Thomas Jefferson: Note in Destutt de Tracy’s “Political Economy,” 1816. ME 14:466
I could go on, but why bother? I can already hear the objection: “Jefferson was just one of the founders, and he didn’t even have a hand in the writing of the Constitution.” Sadly, I suspect the first person I would hear those words coming from has, himself, invoked Jefferson – when it suited his purposes. But I would reply that Jefferson is the preeminent authority on the founding ideals and principles of this nation as he did, in fact, write the founding document of this nation, which then led to the construction of the Constitution. And so these same voices do not feel tempted to object that I am once again voicing a groundless opinion – which they will, no doubt – do anyway – I appeal to the last of our original founding fathers to pass away to testify to the validity of my claim, himself:
“Before the formation of this Constitution…[t]his Declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States in the Union and has never been disannulled.”
–John Quincy Adams
This is why I say it is a fatal mistake to save the Constitution over the Declaration, and I would assert that history would support me in this. The Declaration asserts what your rights are and from whence they come, not the Constitution. And yet, when anyone tries to remind the people of this, they look to the Constitution for guidance. Well, the constitution is not the map, the Declaration is, and Jefferson was the founders one true master of what the Declaration means. that we have lost sight of this fact is why we now have a system of government that – in reality – bears little more than a passing resemblance to its original construction. What’s more, many of the changes have been made outside the process established by that original construction. The Amendments allowing direct election of the President, State Senators and individual taxation have destroyed many of the checks and balances intended to chain down the federal government and prevent it from becoming a national government. And the “living document” and judicial precedents have destroyed the government our founders designed. We now have a system where the law is no longer fixed but shifts according to who you are and who you know. And this is justified by claiming “prosecutorial discretion.”
But don’t bother trying to instruct the people as to the proper destination; the people don’t want to hear it anymore than they wanted to hear God’s prophets when they were sent to warn ancient Israel that is had lost its way. If you try to warn the people of this nation today, they will turn on you – viciously – claiming that you have misquoted and maligned them the whole time they are doing the exact thing they decry to you. They will ridicule you, slander you, liable you and accuse you of crimes such as sedition and treason, then feign innocence and injury when you point out what they’ve done. They will renounce all reason and act like those they have attacked for their own behavior while claiming that you are the one who has renounced reason. So, no, I would caution you against trying to warn the people of this nation that they have lost their way. Let them cling to the letter of their laws. You would be better served to just place your hope in the true repository of the Law and wait for His divine judgment than try to correct this stiff-necked people.