Please bear with me on this little history lesson. We’re going on a somber trip, a reminder of what writers had to deal with even in the civilized corners of the globe.
Blessed Memorial Day. I know we’re international, but in America, today is a day we remember those who died for our freedom. So thank you to those fighting for it, and especially thank you to those who died and will never know how grateful I am.
Freedom of speech is not perfect throughout the world, and sometimes it’s not even existent. But we have incredible freedom of speech, especially in the Western world. We are able to say things online that are horrible, uplifting, destructive, and empowering. We can air our opinions, and there are more than enough people who will come back and brow beat those opinions with their own. Something we may not fully appreciate.
When taking an English literature class there was a man who stood out to me and reminded me how amazing it is that we truly have freedom of speech, that the government does not get involved and take it into their own hands.
It was during the 1500s, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. England was protestant, and the protestants were allowing a good amount of freedom of speech, where the Catholic church was very staunch in their reaction to people who spoke out. To give you an idea, Galileo not only lost his sight from staring at the sun to chart it, he was also detained by the inquisition for claiming the earth revolved around the sun.
At the time, France was still Catholic, and Elizabeth wished to marry a French duke, who was the son of the king of France. It was Stubbs’ opinion. It may have been a little overreacting. Stubbs stated that first, Elizabeth didn’t need to get married since she couldn’t have kids. Second, and more important to him, was that if a French man was allowed to marry the Queen of England, it could destroy the freedom of speech England was enjoying under Protestantism.
Ironically, for making a comment on how he didn’t want to lose the current freedom of speech enjoyed in England, he, his printer, and his publisher would be convicted of sedition. The punishment from Queen Elizabeth was to cut off their right hand, so they could never write something seditious ever again.
Story doesn’t end there. Stubbs was up there, ready to lose his hand, to which he said to the crowd, “Pray for me now, my calamity is at hand.” Good sense of humor. After having his hand cut off, just before he passed out, he said, “God save the queen.” The crowd is supposed to respond, but they said nothing. Stubbs paid for his speech. He remained loyal to the queen and continued to write, doing great things for England.
People have had their tongues cut off, fingers mutilated, been hung, decapitated, and a dozen other punishments. There has been branding, torture, and so forth. All because someone said something, because they wrote something, because they had an opinion that was not agreeable by whoever was in charge, or whoever had the largest mob.
There are those who say horrible things about our soldiers, and they have the right to do that. But on Memorial Day, remember those soldiers in the ground, the ones training, the ones serving, they are the reason we have those freedoms. They are the reason people can disparage the president, no matter which side they’re on. It’s the reason we can even have multiple parties getting into power. We can decry corporations and pollution. We can do all of this because of a freedom Stubbs did not enjoy. A freedom many people have sacrificed years of their lives for. A freedom many people died for.
“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.”
In his commencing sentence, Jefferson uses the phrase “one people” to describe the citizens of the soon to be United States. While not everyone in the colonies supported the war, a majority of them recognized the need for separation. As a result, they came together in unity; they were “one people.”
Today, United States’ citizens can no longer claim to be “one people.” Americans, who emigrated in order to promote freedom of choice and later individuality, have let their actions turn and expand so much, that freedom and individuality has begun to decline. This descent can be seen in the school systems which promote conformity. As most public school products can attest, the standardized tests have limited the quality and intensity of the education experience. By focusing and demanding that all students follow the same guidelines and curriculum, the test-makers and deciders limit the potential for individual thinking and responsibility.
The decline in freedom can also be seen in the new laws of tolerance which end up limiting free speech rather than protecting it. So many people complain about hate speech whether it be due to racism, religion or homosexuals. And while hate speech of any type is wrong, by declaring it illegal, the government takes upon itself the role of moral dictator. As history shows, dictators with too much power (which is the definition of dictator), rule by their own finite, arbitrary notions. If our country was founded on the basis that all people have a “separate and equal station,” then why should the government limit the freedoms, declaring some people’s opinions to be unequal?
Furthermore, within the constitution, notice the specific use of “mankind” and “people.” The Founding Fathers recognized that man’s place existed above the animal kingdom. Being different from the animals, being gifted with the ability to vocally speak, understand, analyze, express and act on our thoughts and emotions gives humans a special, elevated status. Mankind has this status because of “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” When any other finite creation (whether it be gold, trees or animals) rises above mankind’s status and value, then an unhealthy imbalance occurs.
Being “one people” does not mean that everyone has to be the same. As already noted, the Founding Fathers encouraged freedom. Rather, the phrase means that the people can unite together on specific interests, hopes and themes. Despite the differences, these citizens have the ability to focus on the common connecting thread of freedom that unites them. Without this thread what is the purpose of a continuing to call ourselves a free people. If US citizens continue to allow the government to take away the freedom which makes us equal, then what right do the people have to call themselves citizens of the United States of America? If we are still a country, then we should still be A people.
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 harrass 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 benefits 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 Brittish 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.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Column 1 Georgia:
Column 2 North Carolina:
John Penn South Carolina:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Column 3 Massachusetts:
John Hancock Maryland:
Charles Carroll of Carrollton Virginia:
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Column 4 Pennsylvania:
George Ross Delaware:
Column 5 New York:
Lewis Morris New Jersey:
Column 6 New Hampshire:
William Whipple Massachusetts:
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry Rhode Island:
William Ellery Connecticut:
Oliver Wolcott New Hampshire: