by Whitney Pitcher
Two years ago I wrote a post about an interesting revision Thomas Jefferson made when writing the Declaration of Independence:
A recent discovery by preservationists at the Library of Congress has shown an interesting piece of history within the one of the pivotal documents of America’s founding. When Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, it was organized into 5 parts:”the introduction, the preamble, the indictment of George III, the denunciation of the British people, and the conclusion.” In the section indicting King George, Jefferson delineated a list of grievances that many colonists had against the King. One such indictment was of “treasonable insurrections”. In the Declaration itself, here is how that section reads (note: original spelling is used):
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. (emphasis mine)
However, as the preservationists have recently discovered through use of high tech devices, Jefferson had changed one word in that section in the transcription of this document that was truly indicative of how the Founders viewed the tyranny of King George. The workers at the Library of Congress discovered that although the document refers to “our fellow citizens” in the aforementioned section, Thomas Jefferson modified this section which originally referred to our fellow subjects. The Founders and early American patriots did not wish to be viewed as subjects to a King whom they had a long list of grievances against. They wished to be seen as citizens who had liberty, not subjects who were under tyranny.
When we simply look at what distinguishes “subjects” from “citizens”, we can see what a declaration of independence truly means. A citizen is one who is under the protection of a governing body, while a subject is one under the control of a governing body. Jefferson and the other Founders saw that, because of they had become subject to tyranny, forced to fight against their fellow citizens, obstructing justice, imposing taxes, and a whole slew of other injustices and constraints to liberty, they had been relegated to subjects, and that in order to seen as they truly were, citizens, Jefferson and the other signers of the document needed to declare their independence.
As we draw closer to Independence Day 2012, a lot of parallels can be seen between what the colonists faced and what we face today. This is not verbal histrionics; it is the truth. We may not have a king, but we have a government that seems to ignore the very freedoms protected in the Constitution that they swore an oath to uphold. Furthermore, this government so frequently ignores the limits to their power clearly outlined in the Constitution. Two major examples of this have occurred just last month when the both the executive and judicial branches legislating from outside of the legislature. President Obama issued an executive order which would prevent deportation of illegal immigrants under the age of 30, circumventing both houses of Congress. The Supreme Court declared the individual mandate in Obamacare a tax, essential rewriting the law.
With last week’s disheartening and unprincipled decision by the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare, Senator Rand Paul wrote an excellent piece at the National Review noting the dissenting opinion’s reference to the Stamp Act–the Act King George III levied against the colonists that taxed every piece of paper used The Stamp Act was seen as the first direct tax on the colonists. Senator Paul goes on to note the who is most affected by the mandate/tax in Obamacare:
Obamacare has caused up to 20 million Americans to lose their health-insurance policies. And, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the health-care-reform law will destroy 800,000 jobs. An analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation from November 2009 shows that in 2016, three-quarters of the tax imposed by the individual mandate will fall on those making less than $120,000 of income for a family of four or $59,000 for an individual. Families of four making $72,000 or less and individuals making $35,400 or less will bear nearly half of the mandate tax.
Despite Obama’s promise in 2008 to not raise taxes on those who make less than $250,000, with this legislation continues another broken promise. In fact, the first tax increase President Obama implemented was an increase in cigarette taxes, which are seen as a mostly regressive tax. Suffice it to say, taxes have increased under the president, and not just for the rich.
Whether or not it is the aforementioned tax increases, impinging upon religious freedoms, or hypocrisy on healthy eating or fossil fuel use, President Obama is in many ways behaving as if the American people are his subjects and he is a king. Our battle today is not one of bayonets and cannons, as it was when the colonist revolted against King George III, but our battle is one of ballot boxes and conversation. With the upcoming elections, there is much to do–replacing President Obama is of course important, but that’s only one piece of the reform puzzle. It is important that the majority in the House is not only maintained, but that those re-elected and first elected are serious about repeal. Additionally, winning the Senate is imperative as well. With the desire for repeal of Obamacare, the Senate plays a key role, as with the Supreme Court ruling of the law as a tax, it requires only a simple majority in the reconciliation process for the law to be repealed. The beauty of our Constitutional Republic is that we have the opportunity to vote if we will be controlled as subjects or protected as citizens. Let’s not take that freedom for granted.