The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

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Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

The Meaning of the American Revolution.

Table of Contents

  1. The Founding Documents
    1. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America
    2. The Constitution of the United States
    3. The Gettysburg Address
  2. The Meaning of these Founding Documents
    1. The Declaration of Independence
    2. The Constitution of the United States
    3. The Gettysburg Address
  3. Conclusions
    1. Checks and Balances
    2. Freedom and Liberty
      1. Capitalism is Liberty & Freedom
      2. Socialism (democratic or otherwise) is Serfdom
    3. Equality
    4. Justice for All
  4. Final Thoughts

The Founding DocumentsTop

What was the meaning of the American Revolution? Why was it so important to the development of civilization? How can we assure its continuing impact and importance to American society?

This article will attempt to succinctly answer these questions by examining the most important documents regarding our founding. The three documents that are crucial to The Meaning of the American Revolution are; The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and The Gettysburg Address.

I have excerpted and bolded those parts of these documents that are the central pieces of The Meaning of the American Revolution as follows;

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of AmericaTop

In Congress, July 4, 1776

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.

The Constitution of the United StatesTop

September 17, 1787, by delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Gettysburg AddressTop

President Abraham Lincoln - November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Meaning of these Founding DocumentsTop

The Declaration of IndependenceTop

Prior to The Declaration of Independence, governments believed that they ruled the people, and the people were subservient to the government. Kings were anointed to head the government, supported by Aristocracies, Ministries, and Bureaucrats to impose their will upon the people. This imposition was accomplished by the judiciary, or by military force or constables, or religious fear. To oppose the king was to oppose God. Society was hierarchically organized with the king at the top, followed by the aristocracy and the religious leaders, with the people being at the bottom. It was more important to whom you were born rather than your abilities. The English Reformation and the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries we're challenging these ideas, but they were not replacing these ideas. And so it was until the American Revolution shattered these ideas. With the American Revolution government was no longer top-down from the rulers to the ruled, but the people reigned over the government and those who administered the government. Indeed, the world has been turned upside down. The key sentences from the Declaration of Independence that changed all of this were:

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.

After the United States had achieved its independence it needed to create a form of government that establish these ideals. The ideals of a government under the rule of the people and that preserved and protected the Freedoms and Liberties of its people. After the Articles of Confederation failed to meet the needs of the people a Constitutional Convention was assembled to create a government of these ideals. The Constitution of the United States was the result, and the key phrase of this document is the first seven words of the Constitution.

The Constitution of the United StatesTop

We the People of the United States, declared that the government was “We the People”, not a government of any State, King, Aristocracies, Ministries or Bureaucrats. All power was vested by “We the People”. Society was restructured to accomplish this goal. No longer where birthrights, kings, aristocracy, or bureaucrats needed to form a government. The people established the government and ruled over the government through their elected representatives. To accomplish this a meritocracy evolved that replaced an aristocracy.

And yet the Constitution of the United States was imperfect as it had the seeds of its destruction buried within it. The stain of slavery, which was antithetical to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence were still present in society. Until the stain was removed it would not be possible to fully implement the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence. However, many Americans recognized that this was true and set about to eliminate slavery. It prospered for many decades but the people who recognized this Injustice did not give up their desire to eliminate slavery. As the anti-slavery movement grew it eventually resulted in the American Civil War. A civil war whose main purpose was to eliminate this injustice, antithetical to its ideal and that was tearing apart the country. But this country put itself together again after it eliminated the stain of slavery.

The Gettysburg AddressTop

It was President Abraham Lincoln, in his Gettysburg Address, that summarized the meaning of the Declaration of Independence and summed up what the goals of the Civil War should be:

“a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

And so, the ideals of the American Revolution were now in place with the abolition of slavery. We are still imperfect and striving to obtain the full ideals of the Declaration of Independence. This is how it should be as no government is perfect, but the people should strive to improve the government. Much remains to be done to fully achieve the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, but most of the American people recognize this and are willing to change government to achieve these ideals.

No other country has been founded on these ideals or pursued them in its governance. But in the change to obtain these ideals we must not give up, restrict, or modify any of the ideals we have already achieved. To do so we would no longer be a people dedicated to Liberty and Freedom.

ConclusionsTop

The main impact of the American Revolution was to place government under the rule of the people and to establish Freedom and Liberty as the basis for a just government. But what is the meaning of Freedom and Liberty, and how can we assure its continuance?

Checks and BalancesTop

The Founding Fathers recognized that a powerful government would always subsume more powers at the expense of the people’s freedoms and liberties. They, therefore, attempted to impose limitations on government power. The United States Constitution established three branches of government as a means of checks and balances to government powers, duties, and responsibilities. No branch is inferior or superior to another, and each has a duty and responsibility to assure that the other is performing their Constitutional responsibilities. This is done to check the powers of each branch, and to assure the freedoms and liberties of the citizens of the United States. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the following diagram is apropos:


Seperation of Powers

Freedom and LibertyTop

The right to liberty and the right to be free is a human right. In law, it is any basic right or freedom to which all human beings are entitled and in whose exercise a government may not interfere (including rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as freedom of thought and expression and equality before the law).

One should distinguish between the terms "Freedom" and "Liberty." Speaking generally, Freedom usually means to be free from something, whereas Liberty usually means to be free to do something, although both refer to the quality or state of being free. Freedom generally means you are free from despotic oppression, whether it be by a government, an aristocracy, a theocracy, or an individual or group. Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, Petitioning Government, or to Bear Arms, etc. refers to the release from despotic restraints. Liberty on the other gives you the right to choose a course of action. How to spend your money, what job or occupation you wish to pursue, where you live, who you associate with, what education you undertake, who to marry, or any personal decision you make is liberty. Freedom is not to be used in the sense of our being free to do anything we want. All laws can be viewed as a restriction on freedom and liberty, and such restrictions are proper in any well-regulated society. But they are only proper to prevent one person’s freedom and liberty from infringing on another person’s freedom or liberty. It is this balance between each person’s Freedom and Liberty that defines the state of a Free society.

 “I believe that every individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruits of his labor, so far as it in no way interferes with any other men's rights.”
- Abraham Lincoln on Liberty

 “Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to dream -- to follow your dream or stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters. Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority or government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer. “
- Ronald Reagan at a Moscow State University Address

Capitalism is Liberty & FreedomTop

Capitalism is required for Liberty and Freedom. Capitalism gives you the liberty of the “the pursuit of Happiness”, and the freedom to choose how you pursue happiness. Unfetter capitalism can lead to a restriction of Liberty and Freedom, but restricted Capitalism can also lead to restrictions on Liberty and Freedom. The balance on Capitalism should be that anything in capitalism that constricts Liberty and Freedom should not be allowed within Capitalism. If no such constrictions of Liberty and Freedom exist within capitalistic activities, then the capitalistic activity should be permitted. Capitalism gives you the ability to succeed on your own merits, but it does not guarantee your success. Your success is determined by your skills, abilities, and dedication to achieve success, and even then, you may not succeed. But this is not a problem of Capitalism but a problem in Life. Life holds no guarantees, but Liberty and Freedom in life provides the opportunity to succeed. As to those who would claim that this is “unfair” I would respond that in life there is neither fair or unfair. Life is what it is and must be dealt with as it is. The question is one of “just” or “unjust”. If the fruits of your labor and industry are obtained “justly” then it is “fair”. If it is obtained “unjustly” then it is “unfair”. Justly being defined as any actions that occur within the laws, regulations, and rules established by society to assure justice. If something is “unjust” than you have a legal recourse (i.e. a lawsuit) to assure that justice is enforced and to rectify an unjust action.

Socialism (democratic or otherwise) is SerfdomTop

"You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle.
- Abraham Lincoln

Democratic socialism, wealth redistribution, income inequality adjustment, tax the rich, occupy Wall Street, free education, free healthcare, etc. is all the same principle – socialism or "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." For to implement the above items requires that you take from one class of people (those that work and toil) and give to another class of people (those who do not work and toil). This would have to be accomplished through Government intervention (coercion through threats of fines and/or imprisonment). The government decides what and how much to take, and what and how much to give. This is not the same as taxes, as taxes are levied to support the necessary functions of the government for the good of all, not for the good of some. As such, in socialism, the government needs to limit your freedoms and liberties. Socialism restricts your liberties by deciding how much of your labor is yours and how much is to be given to others, thereby restricting your liberty to utilize your monies as you see fit. Socialism often restricts your freedoms by imposing its will upon you by despotic oppression. Therefore, with socialism, the government is the master of the people as it is the decider, and the people are the serfs of the government as they must obey the dictates of government. Or, to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln Socialism is the same tyrannical principle.

The American Revolution was for the purpose of establishing Liberty and Freedom, and to make the people the Master of Government to assure that Liberty and Freedom are upheld. You cannot be a serf and a master, and as socialism makes you a serf the government is the master. As such socialism is antithetical to the ideals of the American Revolution. For more of my thoughts on "Socialism and Capitalism" please review my article on this subject.

EqualityTop

As stated in the Declaration of Independence “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.” does not mean we that we are all created equal in our physical abilities and mental capacities. Nobody is created equal in their physical abilities and mental capacities – we are all created differently as regards to these factors. What it means is that we are all created equal in our Human Rights and that no person, organization, society, or government may violate our Human Rights. These Human Rights also assumes that each person is entitled to pursue happiness. The right to pursue happiness is any legal activity as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. This pursuit of happiness is to be unencumbered by any laws, rules, and regulations that do not apply to all. We should all have an equal opportunity to pursue happiness based on our physical abilities and mental capacities as well as our own efforts to achieve happiness. Equality is not a guarantee of equal outcomes but a guarantee of equal opportunity and equal treatment. This means that in practice that some will be more successful in achieving their happiness, some will fail, but most will achieve some degree of happiness. And many times, this success or failure is due to the inequality of our physical abilities and mental capacities. It’s called "Life".

Justice for AllTop

What is Justice?  Justice, in its broadest context, includes both the attainment of that which is just and the philosophical discussion of that which is just. The concept of justice is based on numerous fields, and many differing viewpoints and perspectives including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. Often, the general discussion of justice is divided into the realm of social justice as found in philosophy, theology and religion, and, procedural justice as found in the study and application of the law. - From the Wikipedia Article "Justice".

This Chirp is about Justice in a legal sense. The path to legal Justice throughout history has been long and torturous. For thousands of years, societies throughout the world have tried to determine the meaning of legal Justice. Today, in 21st century America, we have determined the best definition of Justice is the creation of Just Laws and the application of these laws through the "Rule of Law".

The first step to Justice is the creation of Just Laws. For you cannot justly administer an unjust law.  Our forefathers devised a system for the creation of laws that would be just. They created three branches of government; Legislative for the creation of laws, Executive to enforce the law, and Judicial to administer the law. The checks and balances built into this system were to assure that the laws would be just and not infringe on the human and Constitutional rights of the people. But no system devised by men is perfect, and there are many instances of unjust laws in our history. However, our system allows for the reexamination of laws to revise or rescind a law in the Legislative branch, to provide for discretion in enforcing the law in the Executive branch, or to overturn a law by Judicial branch review of its constitutionality. Eventually, unjust laws are overturned to assure a more perfect Justice. But this requires that:

Eternal vigilance of Laws by all is necessary for the achievement of Just Laws.

The next step is the administration of Just Laws through Legal proceedings utilizing the Rule of Law. Without the Rule of Law, there can be no Justice. But the Rule of Law requires that several concepts and tenets be enforced for Justice to prosper as explained in my article "The Rule of Law". These concepts and tenets are “Etched in Stone”. They are:

Concepts - Due Process, Speedy Trial, Presumption of Innocence, Trial by Jury, Burden of Proof on Prosecutor or Plaintiff, No Burden on Defense.

Tenets - An Independent Judiciary, Probable Cause, Equality Under the Law, Equal Protection of the Laws, Pursuit of Justice, Pardons and Commutations, Full Faith and Credit, Contract Law Enforcement.

Without the Rule of Law, there can be no Justice. The rule of law must be sacrosanct in all legal proceedings for there to be any hope of Justice. And it is most important to remember:

To assure Justice for All you must dedicate yourself to the Rule of Law.
Not only the Rule of Law for yourself but Rule of Law for all.
To do otherwise means there will be No Justice for Anyone.

Final ThoughtsTop

To assure the goals of the American Revolution you must dedicate yourself to the rule of the people over the government and to Freedom and Liberty. Not only Freedom and Liberty for yourself but Freedom and Liberty for all.

note - This is a complementary essay to “The Meaning of the American Civil War” and I would direct you to that essay for my thoughts on this subject.