A Free People: Government is Not All-Powerful

On Thursday, March 11, Biden addressed the American people concerning the coronavirus and the
direction our nation is headed, marking almost exactly one year since “15 days to flatten the curve” was
announced.


He detailed the sacrifices Americans have made, including the economic suffering we continue to endure,
the mental health tolls of isolation, and though he did not frame it this way, the intentional and concerted
effort to shut down the Church. What he did not acknowledge was that the government has been the
primary agent to inflict this suffering. South Dakota and Florida are just a few examples that show how
economic lockdowns do little to nothing to slow the spread.


After listing the struggles of the past year, Biden uttered some of the most insulting words to American
ears, “[W]e will issue further guidance on what you can and cannot do…”
He continued, “If we do all this, if we do our part, if we do this together, by July the 4 th , there’s a good
chance you, your families, and friends will be able to get together in in your backyard or your
neighborhood … That doesn’t mean large events with lots of people together, but it does mean small
groups will be able to get together.”


That the date to which Biden tied this limited freedom to gather is the July 4 th is too ironic. Many people
generally do not read the Declaration of Independence very often, but if they do, they will usually reread
it on July 4 th . But I would say now is a good time to refresh our memories on what it says.
Thomas Jefferson’s writing in the Declaration is not only some of the most beautiful of all American legal
documents, but it is also among the most carefully crafted in its wording.


If someone asked you what the first right expressed in the Declaration is, you might say “the right to life”
as that is the first explicitly articulated. However, the first right in the Declaration is the one that is
invoked in the first sentence, that is, the right to revolution.

The familiar words read, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” that is, when the conditions are
met to invoke the right to revolution, they do so by “assum[ing] among the powers of the earth, the
separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them . . .” In other
words, this is a natural right that is intrinsic to the nature of man, pre-existing government.

The next (very lengthy) sentence tells the story of that right to revolution. It begins with the philosophical
framework that grounds the right to revolution in more fundamental rights: life, liberty, and property (or
the pursuit of happiness). The story of the right to revolution concludes that from these natural rights
extend man’s ability to consent to government and “lay its foundation on such principles and organize its
powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

In short, the simple and profound design and purpose of government, of our government, is to secure
those inherent rights, for that is what brings about “safety and happiness.”

The next few sentences make the accusations that the King of England has repeatedly usurped the
American colonists of their natural rights and refused to be moved upon to alter his course. The preamble
closes with the words, “To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Jefferson goes on to list the 27 grievances against the King in which he is guilty of their accusations and
concludes, saying, “A prince whose character is marked by every act which may define a Tyrant is unfit
to be the ruler of a free people.”

Astonishing. After Jefferson just catalogued the 27 ways in which, according to extrinsic measures of
government, the colonists were not “free,” Jefferson calls those same colonists a free people.

Freedom of the quality Jefferson is speaking is not a simple evaluation of how much power government is
exercising and whether rights were infringed. Freedom as a quality of a people is a comment on their
character and conduct. This means that the American people cultivated the virtues to rise in self-
governance. Their own individual actions were already generally ordered toward bringing about the good
for their person, their families, and their communities without government control.

Do we have the constitution of character that it could be said of us today, that we are a free people? Until
we all do, a vacation to Florida, which Governor Ron DeSantis called an “oasis of freedom,” to remind us
what normal should look like would do us all well.

by Mary Coran