Delusions About Freedom

by: Jacob G. Hornberger

Why did early Americans consider themselves free? The answer is rooted in the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. As Thomas Jefferson observed in that document, people have been endowed by their Creator with certain fundamental and inherent rights. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The reason that people call government into existence is to protect the exercise of such rights. But Jefferson recognized that sometimes government becomes worse than the murderers, rapists, thieves, invaders, and marauders that it is supposed to protect the people from. In such a case, it is the right of the people to alter or even abolish the government and institute new government. Since violent revolutions inevitably involve massive death and destruction, Jefferson observed that people will often choose to put up with lots of tyranny before they finally decide to revolt.

A critical question arises: What do the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness connote?

For our American ancestors, such rights meant more than the absence of physical constraint, e.g., not being incarcerated in jail.

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