Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Legacy of July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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 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 effect their Safety and Happiness. 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 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 to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by 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. — 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.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How to Set a Bad Example

Howdy folks.

I originally sent this as an email to my Dad a little bit ago, but on a second look liked it so much that, with a couple of edits, I've transformed it into a blog entry.

Caveat: 'Tis easier to understand of what is said below if you've been watching the news, about something other than terror plots in Britain. President Bush did something yesterday...I didn't like. Again.

My opposition to the commutation of the sentence for I. Lewis Libby actually has little to do with his conviction, or what he did or didn't do. He had an appeals process going on, which should have been allowed to go forward with "Scooter" Libby being in jail...why? It's the message the President's action sends - disrespect for the institutions of law which form the foundation of the system we enjoy. Weakening "Scooter" Libby's punishment weakens, if you ask me, the credibility of the office of the president. It doesn't seem that accountability is as important to this administration as the exercise of power is.

What it also does is set a bad example for future presidencies, whether Republican or Democrat. They'll look at the precedent set by this administration and say "Well, if they could do it, why can't we?" Bush did it with signing statements, referring to past presidencies and to Clinton. Don't tell me that a future president won't commute the sentence of a former official in his or her administration convicted for some crime or other, and justify the act by referring to this president's example. It could, and likely will, happen...and this president made it easier for it to happen.

If Hillary Clinton becomes president, and she does something similar - well, Republicans would have difficulty criticizing her from a moral high ground they no longer possess. I don't think Democrats hold it either, by the way.

I like to think I grew quite adept at looking U.S. politics with a sense of emotional detachment, in spite of my attachment to the country overall, while living in Israel. As I've said in the past to others, it is far easier to see the source or cause of a pond's ripples, who threw in the rock that hit the fish on the head, when above the surface, as opposed to when you're underneath it.

My reaction now is undeniably emotional, but my conclusions are unequivocally rational...formed gradually.

I look at a series of events, over time, and see a pattern I don't like. Were there not the chance that a future president would follow the example of his predecessors, I might think differently. But George Washington knew that what he did would set a standard, and every president since has had a keen interest in his own legacy...Bush is human, and no different from past presidents in this regard.

The Founders knew human nature, knew the potential for power to be abused by those who attain it. That's why what's in the Constitution is in the Constitution; that's why there's a Bill of Rights. That's why Libby should have served
some time in jail while his appeal went through. Sure, the Constitution mentions presidential pardons, but it also speaks of the judiciary. The Bill of Rights speaks of jury trials, punishments, etc. There's a process; you shouldn't just flout that.

Whatever President Nixon did, I believe that President Ford was correct in pardoning him, for the effect it eventually had on the Republic. However,
this doesn't end a national nightmare; in the minds of those who are experiencing one, it is likely only to make it seem as if things are worse. Had this sort of thing happened at the end of Bush's second term, I probably wouldn't feel the same way. The perception given off would have been the same, but the message different. Even if it had been a full pardon, rather than just a weakening of a punishment.

One of these days, we need to take a look at that Constitution again, and consider amendments that have little to do with gay marriage, flag-burning, and other things which I feel should be left to the States. And when I say look at that Constitution, I refer specifically to the powers of the president to...pardon, or commute prison sentences. It's just a thought.

What President Bush did for Libby was just as wrong as what that California sheriff did for Paris Hilton, releasing her early to house arrest - it makes it seem as if laws and rulings, findings and convictions, are merely suggestions rather than
requirements. It gives the impression that some are above the law, and others not so fortunate...especially those who might be innocent, but who, when punished, do not count among their friends the President of the United States of America.