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Happy Birthday, USA

“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 to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

“We hold these truths to be 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 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, 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.”

From the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

It is a melancholy thought that in much of the Anglosphere today, the concepts of classical liberalism: natural rights, limited government, private property, free trade, freedom of speech, rational enquiry, and the pursuit of a happy life, are under attack. The US has been and still is an imperfect exemplar of those values, but in my mind it still is the best of them, amd I wish my American Anglosphere cousins a very happy Fourth of July.

Fire up the barbecues!

23 comments to Happy Birthday, USA

  • A salute to the Magna Carta, Samuel Rutherford, John Locke, the Founding Dads, and E. G. Kingsford.

  • Michael Staab

    Being an American, I suppose I do have a bit of prejudice in thinking that the preamble of our DOI are perhaps among the most thrilling words ever put to paper. It is just such a pity that these words reflect the past.
    Is there anywhere in this world where these words mean anything any longer?

  • renminbi

    Thanks for the kind thoughts and good luck in getting rid of the assholes ruining your country.

  • Laird

    Thank you. Those are indeed thrilling words, and should be re-read from time to time by everyone, especially those of us in the U.S. I think the concluding passage is equally stirring, and reminds us just what those men were risking when they signed the Declaration:

    “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

    I wonder if any such people are among us today.

  • Paul Marks

    America has declined but it is not yet destroyed.

    It is true that each attack builds on the others so to say “we have survived worse” misses the point – but much still remains.

    For example, both the First and the Second Amendment still stand – at least for this year.

    There is much still worth fighting (and working) for.

    The United States is still the last, best hope for human beings everywhere.

    And this short, bald Englishman will carry on the struggle for America to the bitter end – if bitter it must be.

  • veryretired

    Imperfect—yes, of course. The US is an attempt to create a human space, a human system for political and social interaction. As such, it is imperfect by its very nature, as all humans and their creations are.

    It is the ideologues who claim perfection, who are willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to achieve their utopian dreamworld.

    And, because it is not human to be perfect, the dreamworlds quickly and inevitably turn into the nightmares we have seen repeatedly around the world—psychotic infernos of death which can cause ordinary people to risk imprisonment and death just for a chance they might escape.

    So, yes, imperfect. A bubbling kettle of conflicting views, competing ideas, claims and counterclaims, proposals and assertions. All the intellectual and cultural chaos that led one totalitarian after another to underestimate the strength that lies underneath all the turmoil.

    The world, and our own people, are still groping, trying to understand the scope and meaning of those revolutionary words, those ideas that said men and women should be able to live their lives as they see fit.

    The reverberations of such a blatant heresy, such a repudiation of all that which had gone before, are still vibrating through human society as we enter the opening stages of the formation of a true world culture.

    Happy birthday, and many happy returns.

  • nick g.

    It has always been a disappointment to me that the man who penned ‘All men are created equal’, was a man who kept slaves all his life. The sentiments are wonderful, and I give him full marks for that.
    And, as I wrote on another comment, the US has managed to do lots of good things in the world, and is still one of the freest countries on Earth. However, the Kelo case is a worry, as is the fact that it was a US president who gave us income Tax.

  • Midwesterner

    nick g,

    I note you said ‘kept’, not ‘owned’. They and everything else he owned was mortgaged to the hilt. He could no more have released them under the law than you could give away your car after making only one payment or give away your house while it is fully mortgaged.

    People who bring up his ‘ownership’ of slaves usually neglect to mention that he didn’t actually own them or have the power to release them. He probably assumed it was better to keep them as long as he could than to let them be ‘repossessed’ and sold at auction for top value.

    Unfortunately Jefferson was not very good at managing money and furthermore, back then you could inherit other people’s debt (which he did). Here is a thumbnail sketch of his debt situation.

  • nick g.

    Whilst it’s interesting that he was a slave to the debt of others, he also had a black concubine, from whom are descended a line of black Jeffersons. And I wonder if building Monticello meant more to him than liberating slaves.
    And was the same true of Washington? Did he own slaves, or not, and was that a legacy from the past?
    I have always felt it ironic that class-conscious Britain was more liberal (slaves freed 1833) than slave-owning America. Doubly-ironic, in that it took Lincoln, and an expansion of Federal power, to overcome State-power based slavery! Slavery sowed the seeds of Federal power, regretably.

  • Midwesterner

    nick g,

    Perhaps “class conscious Britain” was more hypocritical than substantive. This is taken from Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration in 1776.

    he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemispere, or to incure miserable death in their transportation hither. this piratical warfare, the opprobium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. [determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold,] he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce [determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold]: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

    We were in an ongoing campaign to end slavery while Britain was still determined to profit from it, vetoing all of our prohibitions. Unless that statement was removed from the declaration, the South Carolina and Georgia would have sided with the pro-slavery British government against our independence. Sad but true. The British wanted to profit from slavery. They just didn’t want to have to look at it.

    Slavery was a mine embedded at the laying of our new country’s foundation that did more to destroy our constitution than anything until FDR. And FDR could probably have never happened without the precedents set by the Civil War.

  • nick g.

    Whilst that draft was interesting, I have read that some of the Southern states were worried by trends in Britain towards abolition, and that was one of the factors for joining the rebellion. Apparently a judge had given a slave his freedom, with some observation about how slavery had never been the law of the land (in England), in 1773.
    And we here in Australia weren’t entirely innocent. ‘Blackbirding’ was the practice of Queenslanders ‘hiring’ melanesians from Fiji and other islands and taking them to work on plantations. It seems like it was just one step above slavery.
    All countries need improvement, but we should find some way to keep governments out of the process!

  • Midwesterner

    Can you give me a link or a source for that, nick? I would like to read the details. It is not something I have run across but I haven’t looked for it.

    According to what I have read, only two states adamantly opposed the anti-slavery statement in the Declaration. Why would the other slave states have sided with the here-and-now anti-slavery statement if they were worried that England might in the future move toward ending slavery?

    One English judge may have made that ruling but American political assemblies repeatedly voted over many decades to eliminate it and were always vetoed by the Crown so they tried to only reduce it and were still vetoed. In the case you suggest, slavers would have had one English judge against them and the Crown supporting them. Meanwhile overwhelming numbers in the colonies were opposed to slavery. I would really like to see a link or at least a reference. You’ve raised my curiosity.

  • nick g.

    It was a book I read about two years ago. I’ll look for it again.

  • Midwesterner

    Thanks. I appreciate that.

  • nick g.

    “Slave Nation”, printed by Bloomberg Press, I think. It’s out-of-print here in OZ, but your stores might have it.

  • Midwesterner

    Thank you for checking.

    I’m not able to identify the book on the web. Do you have an author and maybe even an ISBN?

  • Midwesterner

    Thank you much, Alisa. I read the reviews and think I’ll definitely not spend money on it. I may see if the library has it, though. It sounds like a narrative supporting theory in search of facts.

    Even a reviewer who highly endorsed the book inadvertently pointed out a major flaw in the books premise. I’ll quote one reviewer who gave the book the highest possible rating.

    To reply to one Amazon reviewer’s comment, the British high court decision in the matter of James Somerset did not free the slaves in the colonies. It determined was that slavery was not lawful in Britain under the British Common Law because slavery was an unnatural and odious condition, and could only exist as a property right in jurisdictions where it had been legislated into existence. Because no law was ever enacted in Britain to create that right, James Somerset became free when he stepped onto British soil. However, the colonial legislatures had legalized slavery in their jurisdictions.

    The only problem with that is that colonial legislatures had been attempting to outlaw slavery for many decades and were blocked by the Crown for even the smallest of restrictions. There appear to be many more problems inferred in the reviews (both positive and negative) that I read.

    Thank you both for your assistance.

  • Midwesterner

    I should explain what Jefferson meant by:

    he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce

    In simple English, that means that the king ‘sold’ his veto power to prevent the banning of slavery and keep the profits for the slave brokers in England. IIRC, the first market was in London, then it moved to Liverpool and I think reached its zenith and ended in Bristol.

  • colonial legislatures had been attempting to outlaw slavery for many decades and were blocked by the Crown for even the smallest of restrictions.

    I never knew this – thanks Mid.

  • Midwesterner

    Sadly, Alisa, too few people do. It just doesn’t fit the left’s narrative. You know, the one that says ‘US is evil’.