It is interesting how words can be used to work in so many ways, to elicit emotions and actions. Interesting how the same words can work towards opposite ends. Interesting how much hypocrisy is at the foundation of our nation. It’s the behaviors, the actions that our words exist alongside which we must pay close attention to, don’t you think? Character, not personality. Character. What are we doing? What am I doing? What I say is important, but more important is what I do. How in sync is what I say with what I do? When I say, “they” this or “they” that, can I see that it is me? That it is we? Can I look at my own hypocrisies and make the changes? Or do I just want “them” to do it? Is that what I think is meant by “the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” Is that what I mean when I talk about Freedom?
Chapter 4: “Tyranny is Tyranny”
The Declaration of Independence. Independence from England, based on the premise that all men are created equal and that England does not treat men as equals.
Written up by Thomas Jefferson and declared by Congress on July 2, it was proclaimed on the famous day, July 4, 1776.
The opening of the document: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands...they should declare the causes...”
The second paragraph, a “powerful philosophical statement,” states: “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 this, as we all know, did not include Indians, black slaves nor women as human beings with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Apparently Thomas Jefferson had included a phrase about the industry of slavery, condemning England’s effort to keep it alive in America. It stated that they were, “...suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.” And, apparently, although Thomas Jefferson, as Zinn puts it “had a personal distaste for slavery,” he owned hundreds of them until he died.
And, “Jefferson’s paragraph was removed by Continental Congress because slaveholders themselves disagreed about the desirability of ending the slave trade.”
Zinn talks about the class conflict that was heating up both in England and in Revolutionary America. The governing classes in both places were fearfully strategizing on how to maintain their positions - the class distinctions and distribution of wealth.
“...the reality of the words behind the Declaration of Independence (Issued the same year as Adam Smith’s capitalist manifesto, The Wealth of Nations) was that a rising class of important people needed to enlist on their side enough Americans to defeat England, without disturbing too much the relations of wealth and power that had developed over 150 years of colonial history. Indeed, 69% of the men who signed the Declaration had held colonial office under England.”
“When the Declaration was read, with all its flaming radical language, from the town hall balcony in Boston, it was read by Thomas Crafts, a member of the Loyal Nine group- a group of conservatives who had opposed militant action against the British. Four days after the reading, the Boston Committee of Correspondence ordered the townsmen to show up on the Common for a military draft. The rich, it turned out, could avoid the draft by paying for substitutes; the poor had to serve. This led to rioting, and shouting; “Tyranny is Tyranny, let it come from whom it may.””
Again, from the Declaration of Independence, “That to secure these rights [to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness], 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.”