Mary Mostert
July 5, 2003
Why the spread of freedom is not "American imperialism"
By Mary Mostert

I memorized the Declaration of Independence during World War II as a young teenager, and it has been a major force in my life since then. During the 1950s McCarthy era, I concluded that few Americans actually had ever really read or understood it. A couple of times I did a street survey in which I quoted sections of the Declaration of Independence and asked people if they could identify where it came from.

Almost none of the people on the streets of Memphis, Tennessee at the time correctly identified it. Most said they didn’t know where the quote came from and a surprising number said it was from the Communist Manifesto. What I had quoted was: “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed and when any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing itself in such form as to them shall seem more likely to affect their safety and happiness.”

Do most Americans today believe governments should ever be abolished? Let’s put it this way: Do people in other countries have the right to abolish THEIR abusive governments like the Colonists did? Did the American colonists have the right to separate from England, then borrow money and troops from France to defeat the British in the Revolutionary War so they could organize a new form of government?

Sometimes I would quote the passage that I consider the greatest explanation in the English language to explain why people tolerate corrupt and incompetent governments: “Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established shall not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly, experience has shown that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by altering forms to which they are accustomed.”

People hate change. They often put up with unhappiness and misery, even verbal and physical abuse, rather than changing something in their own personal lives they have control over but refuse to change.

Thomas Jefferson went on to say in the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and provide for new guards for their future security.”

The Colonists did that in 1776, but do Afghans and Iraqis have the right to do what the Americans did? Can America do in 2003 what France did in 1778 and create alliances with people wanting to change their governments?

Jefferson listed twenty-seven things King George III did to make life miserable for the Americans. He then went on to point out that the Americans had tried for many years to settle the problems peacefully: “We have warned them (the king, his ministers and the English parliament) from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.”

That statement reminds me of President George W. Bush unsigning the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty signed previously by President Bill Clinton. Bush, in effect, said the United Nations was extending an “unwarrantable jurisdiction” over Americans with its unelected and uncontrolled International Criminal Court. Of course, many at the UN are just as upset over Bush rejecting unwarrantable jurisdiction as George III was.

In closing, Thomas Jefferson appealed to the power of Heaven to witness the event and to verify the righteousness of the intent of the document: “We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of American in general congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.”

The fifty-six men who signed that document knew that signing it would cost some of them their lives, others their homes and farms. But, they believed freedom was worth it.

On July 4, 1776 they signed under the last sentence in the document which states: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

All of those who signed the Declaration of Independence DID suffer. Some lost their lives. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned and two lost sons in the war. New Jersey signer John Hart lost everything — his home, barns and mills burned, his ailing wife dying and his 13 children scattered. However, not one of those men ever surrendered his honor or regretted signing that document.

Eleven years later, finding the Continental Congress lacked the ability or the power to solve the raging economic and civil unrest sweeping the land, the framers of the Constitution of the United States met and structured a new form of government with limited powers, based on the consent of the governed and designed to secure the God-given unalienable rights for the people.

Contrary to the anti-war crowd, the spread of freedom is not American Imperialism. Freedom doesn’t belong to America. God gave ALL MANKIND the same unalienable rights he gave Americans. Those who resisted the ouster of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein now want to oust from office or impeach George W. Bush for helping the Afghans and Iraqis be able to change their form of government.

During the American Revolution, twenty percent of the American people supported George III’s tyranny. Many fled to Canada, where their descendants are still opposing ousting tyrants like Saddam Hussein.

© Mary Mostert

 

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Mary Mostert

Mary Mostert is a nationally-respected political writer. She was one of the first female political commentators to be published in a major metropolitan newspaper in the 1960s... (more)

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