J. Talbot Manvel: Declaration of Independence joined morality and law – CapitalGazette.com

On the Fourth of July we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which Ayn Rand called the "greatest document in human history." Why? Because it was the first time that society was subordinated to moral law. In her seminal essay, "Man's Rights," Rand wrote:

"The principle of man's individual rights represented an extension of morality into the social system as a limitation on the power of the state, as man's protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history."

Previously, men were ruled either by a king who claimed a divine right to rule, or by an elite few supposedly blessed with some superior insight, or by the many, through the mob rule of democracy. Rights were considered grants of permission that could be withdrawn whenever the one, the few or the many dictated. Man was here to sacrifice his life to king or council or to society for the greater good.

America's Founding Fathers changed that. For the first time in history society was subordinated to moral law by making the protection of individual rights government's purpose. Eleven years later they crafted the U.S. Constitution, with the guiding principles that limited government's powers with a series of checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights, demanded by the people for their consent to the Constitution.

As a work of logic, the declaration is a syllogism that it, is a logical argument containing a major premise, a minor premise and a conclusion. The major premise is Thomas Jefferson's brilliant summation of John Locke's theory of government, captured in the first sentence of the declaration's second paragraph, which is worth reading today:

"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 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 affect their safety and happiness."

Meredith Newman

Annapolis cancels Fourth of July parade, but Severna Park, others march on

Annapolis cancels Fourth of July parade, but Severna Park, others march on (Meredith Newman)

The minor premise is the list of 27 grievances against the king of Great Britain, who was seeking "the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states."

Notice there is not one grievance against the king for not providing for the "needs of the people." The Founding Fathers understood that for governments to provide for "needs" it must take from the haves to give to the have-nots, which violates the rights of the haves. Indeed, the American colonists, rich and poor, felt the king's lash violating their rights as he plundered their towns to provide for his needs to impose tyranny on them.

The declaration's conclusion is: "We therefore, the representatives of the United States of America ... solemnly publish and declare that these colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states."

As the result of this revolutionary founding, America blossomed into the wealthiest nation in the world. In her speech at West Point to the Corps of Cadets, Ayn Rand paid tribute to America:

"I can say not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world."

Enjoy and celebrate the 241st anniversary of the founding of America.

Long-time Annapolis resident Talbot Manvel is graduate of the Naval Academy, St. John's College and the Ayn Rand Institute. Contact him at talmanvel@icloud.com.

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J. Talbot Manvel: Declaration of Independence joined morality and law - CapitalGazette.com

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