Declarations and diary entries

“About the Declaration [of Independence] there is a finality that is exceedingly restful,” concluded President Calvin Coolidge in 1926 on the 150th anniversary of the document’s signing.

Coolidge added, “If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth … the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward.”

I wrestle at times with the status quo nature of political conservatism. How can I favor the novel, the advanced, the “progressive” in many areas of life but remain committed to “conserving” the governing philosophies of generations past?

Coolidge provides the answer. In the Declaration of Independence, we fundamentally have it as good as it gets this side of eternity. Sure, the practice of government can always improve in a dynamic world, but the theory needs no tinkering.

The beliefs bedrocked in the summer of 1776 can be summed this way: Government was made for people; people were not made for government. Conservative philosophy stands on this fundamental truth. Therefore, conservative principles permeate the Declaration.

The colonists wanted more local government; King George wanted centralized authority. The colonists wanted to limit taxation; George wanted to expand it. The colonists wanted more international trade; George wanted it stifled. The colonists wanted George’s army and bureaucrats out of their homes and lives; George wanted refrigerator rights.

No wonder George had a fight on his hands.

Today, conservatives fight in the spirit of the colonists against those who conveniently re-label modern liberalism as “progressivism.” Modern liberalism is actually “statism,” the belief that an individual’s personal pursuits should be quelled in favor of a collective utopian state (for more on this topic, see Mark Levin’s book “Liberty and Tyranny”).

Authentic liberalism – advocating the liberation of the burdened – was never more alive than in the summer of 1776. Ironically, this classical liberalism – the opposite of authoritarianism – laid the foundation for what we contemporary conservatives attempt to preserve today.

Colonial America witnessed an epic battle between freedom-loving people and an over-reaching government. Today, nonviolent battles over government’s proper role happen all around us. Why? Because the natural order in a fallen world is for power to expand and encroach.

As we peruse parades and barbecue brisket this weekend, let us not be unaware of or ill-prepared for the battles around us. Let us not write in our diaries on the days such battles occur what King George wrote in his on July 4, 1776: “Nothing of importance this day.”

Kevin Thompson is a former chief of staff in the Texas House of Representatives and current Vice President of Texas Heritage Bank in San Antonio. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

3 Responses to “Declarations and diary entries”


  1. 1 Bennye Waskom July 1, 2011 at 21:12

    Kevin, You have just given me my 4th of July greeting to my friends. Thanks! B

  2. 3 Doug Pagenkopf July 7, 2011 at 13:40

    Kevin,
    I am inspired by your patriotism, your knowledge of our country’s history and the clarity by which you express them both.

    DP


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