"Political Power, then, I take to be a Right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good."
-John Locke, Second Treatise of Government
By the grace of God, we are able to form the "common-wealth" that Locke speaks of, with the goal of divesting ourselves of absolute power--whether held personally over our person, or held by a person or entity over a political body. Important, because, as Locke goes on to say,
"He that thinks absolute power purifies men's bloods, and corrects the baseness of human nature, need read but the history of this, or any other age, to be convinced of the contrary."
All forms of absolute power vested in human authority must be avoided. How better than by the institution of responsible government based in law and absolute truth?
July 4th reminds us that there was a time in our history when obligations to governing authority were called into question. Where indeed are the limits to such human authority? The Declaration of Independence itself recognizes the danger of taking such issues lightly.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But as a Christian, there is so much more to be said. The Christian sees, in all human authority, the extension of God's authority. He indeed is the root and cause. We know, don't we, that the Apostle Paul recognized even the godless Roman authority as having their right to command from God Himself, whether Caesar would acknowledge it or not.
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
A powerful statement considering the times...
How then could the founders of this nation possible justify the decision to "dissolve the political bands" connecting them to the King of Great Britain. It's a question that bothered, I'm sure, not only the signers, but many others who left the colonies because they couldn't justify such an action. Indeed, some of my own ancestors left under such circumstances.
The key to such a question is answered by understanding the responsibility of those who exercise authority. What, for example, still existed after a fashion, even in the Rome Paul knew, that didn't exist in the colonies, and vice versa. First, there was a government in Rome who demanded civil order in every part of the empire. Subordinating ministers and governments were in place for such ends. This guaranteed the safety of the people from outside threats and investitures. This alone, holds a great amount of weight, for without it, one of the essential responsibilities that come with authority fails altogether. Second, were the colonies as capable of self-rule as any political body Paul could have endorsed in his day? The answer is self-evident: Paul, in his integrity, did not endorse any substitute, and the colonies did end up ruling themselves successfully. Perhaps, you might object, Paul didn't endorse any other for other reasons--perhaps he just simply viewed it as his sacred duty to be bound to the authority in place. To claim he had such an outlook would, in fact, be a denial that authority comes from God by making the human institution, in and of itself, immutable--and we know immutability is a quality only attributable to God himself. We must never confuse the human institution with that which it represents imperfectly.
English historians, Winston Churchill being one, agree that George III was irresponsible and misguided in his approach to rule in the American colonies. The consequences to his authority and the first British Empire at large were devastating. When reading Churchill's writings, the "facts" listed in the Declaration of Independence become more than believable.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within. (emphasis mine)
This is just a start. The last of these I listed here would be enough to convince me that self-rule was justified. The law of love informs my conscience enough to know that I must seek the good of my neighbor... And this is the one reason for all of my interest in the political process of my state and nation.
If you would do one thing to remember our reasons for celebrating this July 4th, why not just reading through the Declaration of Independence yourself. Here is a full-text link for your convenience
. It's not long. Go for it.
Have a wonderful day. We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for, not the least of which, is the "protection of divine Providence" so valued and sought after by the 56 signers who pledged their all 231 years ago.
God bless America!