It is a common observation that America is more divided than it has been in living memory. Why? I think the issues between us involve how we define our Rights. When the men at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia wrote our Constitution, they wrote a charter for a republic, a government which, recognizing evils of which men are capable, is designed to protect the individual’s Rights. Unfortunately, during the last couple of centuries we have slowly altered the way we operationally define the term “rights”. When the Constitution was written, the People wanted to protect their inalienable Rights. Now increasing numbers of People want the government to give them their “rights”.
What Are Inalienable Rights?
Yesterday we celebrated the formal announcement of a rebellion. On the 4th of July, we celebrated we celebrated a document, the Declaration of Independence. In particular, we celebrated that part of the document that speaks of inalienable Rights: Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. With the Declaration of Independence representatives from thirteen American colonies formally announced their belief all men have Rights and that those rights are God-given. Moreover, they said that government exists to protect those Rights.
The Declaration of Independence‘s affirmation if inalienable Rights distinguished the United States from all other nations. In a world ruled by conquerors, tyrants, kings, and oligarchs, the people of the thirteen American colonies issued a resounding challenge. They declared God had given every man the right to be free, that they would fight for their freedom.
With the Declaration of Independence, thirteen American colonies stated their cause, one more profound than merely declaring themselves done with kings. When they affirmed that all men have Rights and that their rights are God-given, they also demanded a government that protected every man’s Rights.
What are inalienable Rights? Here is the definition.
Rights that are not alienable
Rights that are not transferable or capable of being taken away or nullified
Origin: 1635-1645 French inalienable
But what makes rights inalienable? The Declaration of Independence unambiguously claimed the power of God.
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. (from here)
The Bill of Rights for the most part is a list of inalienable rights. These are rights the government is both obligated to respect and enforce. What are the exceptions? The Ninth Amendment observes the Bill of Rights is incomplete. In addition, the Tenth Amendment explicitly states that the Federal Government has only those powers given to it by the Constitution. Clearly, the People, who insisted upon a Bill of Rights, feared the power of the Federal Government would grow beyond the bounds set for it by Constitution.
Historians point to the Virginia Declaration of Rights, adopted unanimously in June 12, 1776 by the Virginia Convention of Delegates, as the model for the Bill of Rights. The Declaration of Independence lists how the King of Great Britain violated many of the rights listed in the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Thus, the Declaration of Independence boldly declared that all men have inalienable rights and that the King of Great Britain’s deliberate violation of the rights of the People of the united States of America forced a declaration of independence.
To Be Continued
The goal of this series of posts is not to get deeply philosophical. Nevertheless, I want my readers to understand something about the nature of the deep philosophical difference between the way Conservative Republicans and Liberal Democrats view the purpose of government. Hence we have started at the founding, that day when the beginning of the American Revolution was formally announced. Subsequent posts will move from that past understanding of our Rights to today’s raging debate.
- Part 2: How Does The Bible Affirm Our Rights Are God-given?
- Part 3: What Is The Argument For Government-given Rights?
- Part 4: How Have Liberal Democrats and Progressives Instituted Government-given Rights?
- Part 5: Why Is Compromise Not An Option?