A Long Train of Abuses and Usurpations

This week we celebrate the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the act of which broke ties with King George’s England and gave birth to a new nation. The decision to break with England was not one made lightly, but one that came after “a long train of abuses and usurpations” which finally made the oppression unbearable. And what comprised this long train of abuses? In part, it was the denial of self-governance and obstruction of the administration of justice. It was the erecting of “a multitude of New Offices, and [sending] hither swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance”, the subjection of citizens “to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution”, and cutting off our trade. It was imposing taxes on us without our consent, and exciting domestic insurrections.

It was this and more that led us to dissolve our political bands with England, declare our independence, and shed our collective blood in defense thereof. Yet, if we truly believed that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what else could we have done? When we truly comprehend that we are all children of God, sovereign by virtue of our very creation, how can we be content to be slaves? How can we be content to suffer the indignities of oppression?

It was this new philosophy that emboldened the hearts and minds of Americans. It was this belief that led Patrick Henry to declare “give me liberty or give me death!”, and that led Nathan Hale to proclaim moments before his execution by the British that “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country”.

So perfectly did Samuel Adams embody the new spirit of the American people when he proclaimed on August 1, 1776, from the Philadelphia state house “Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say, ‘What should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship, and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth? If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Today we still feel that pull of freedom within our hearts as we consider the worthy origins of this nation and the freedoms protected by our Constitution. On Independence Day we gather in thousands of communities across the nation to celebrate this sacred gift bestowed on us through the blood of our forefathers. We march in parades, listen to rousing speeches, and issue shouts of acclamation as we see the explosive display of light and the percussive thunder of the fireworks, reminding us of the “rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air”, which are symbols of that fight we won more than two centuries ago.

Yet, as inspiring as these traditions are, I fear that we have deluded ourselves into believing we are any more truly free. I fear instead that we are a nation of Gullivers, allowing ourselves to be bound by an army of government Lilliputians, strand by silken strand of oppressive law binding us as surely as if with chain. The process is all the more nefarious because we fail to realize we are being bound. Indeed, too often we facilitate our own bondage when we willingly trade our liberties for the promise of government security.

One has only to consider the burdens that we daily endure, often without even thinking about it.

American colonists were impelled to the separation in part based on what they considered onerous taxation without representation. The king had levied taxes on them including the Sugar Act (1.5 pence on sugar, wine, molasses, textiles, coffee and indigo), Stamp Act (taxing all printed materials), and the Townshend Revenue Acts (taxing paper, tea, glass, lead and paints). Possibly the most famous was the Tea Act, which imposed a three penny per pound tax on tea. Yet such taxes seem inconsequential compared to our current tax burden.

Today we are burdened by an income tax, a form of taxation forbidden under the original Constitution, with the lowest rate at 10% and the highest rate at 35%, and a president and Democrat Party demanding those rates be raised further. We also have Social Security and Medicare taxes, property taxes, vehicle taxes, capital gains, corporate income and federal excise taxes. We have state income taxes, state and local sales taxes, SPLOSTs, and luxury taxes. We have fuel and unemployment taxes, inheritance/death taxes and inventory taxes. We have taxes in the form of fees or permits or licensing (fishing, hunting, driving, car tag, marriage, business license, CDL, etc.) and fines. Can you imagine how the colonists would have reacted to such a tax burden? Yet we labor strenuously while doing little about it, except plead and grovel to our government masters that they might ease the burden on us a little and place it on the back of our fellow man that is less politically favored.

We also have the hidden tax of inflation, a result of abandoning the constitutional requirement that debts be paid in gold and silver coin, which have intrinsic value, rather than our paper currency, the value of which can be manipulated at will, and in the process destroying the underlying value and rendering the fruits of our labor worthless. Even the real assets that we “own” are nothing more than rented, for if we fail to pay our property taxes will government not come and seize our land by force?

Government now not only taxes our purchases, but demands we purchase a product (health insurance) whether we want to or not! Government dictates how much salt and sugar we can ingest. It dictates what type of light bulbs can illuminate our houses, how many gallons our toilets can flush, and how many gallons/minute our showers can spray. Government bans us from drinking raw milk and requires children in day care to brush their teeth after lunch (Massachusetts). It requires extensive training and licensing for African hair-braiding. The list is almost limitless!

We allow the TSA to grope us in ways that would get them on a sex offender registry in any other situation. Drug laws allow government to seize our assets and place the burden of proof on us to show that we are not guilty.

The freedom we have as Americans today is but a hollow shell of the freedoms secured by the blood of the Founders of this nation and those that fought to obtain them. Today, the doctrine of federalism, the vertical (federal, state, local) and horizontal (legislative, executive, judicial) separation of powers, and the sovereignty of the individual is on life support.

Yet how can we protect and defend that which we don’t understand. As Declaration signer and original Supreme Court justice James Wilson once said, “Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.” On this Independence Day let us do more than eat hamburgers and go to parades. Let us once again rekindle the love affair with freedom. Let us learn of our rich heritage and honor it by reasserting our sovereignty, reigning in our government, and once again derailing this “long train of abuses”.

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