Letter: Fourth of July Spy
Protecting Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness on the Fourth of July
by Deb Lagutaris
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.
I was delighted to have the time to volunteer for the voter registration table at the 4th of July parade in Half Moon Bay. We were set up about an hour before the parade began. A few people stopped by to register and some to chat.
The Coastside Democrats board originated the idea for a voter registration table at the parade. The Dems host such tables at most major community events. All comers are effectively registered, regardless of party orientation. Many of us are known in the community as members of the Democratic Party, so naturally the conversations turned around the upcoming election. We featured a flyer about the organization on the table. All of these activities are acceptable at voter registration tables. Some people at the table gave campaign materials to those who asked for them. This is also an acceptable activity at a voter registration table. The only unacceptable activity at a voter registration table is to dissuade someone from registering for the party of their choice, or trying to influence that choice.
Voting is the means that we are given to alter our government when it seems disinclined to protect our life, liberty, or ability to pursue happiness. Imperfect as this process may be, it tends to insure a measure of stability and peace in governing imperfect beings in an imperfect world. Naturally, anyone would want to help more people participate in shaping the character of their government. Or so I thought.
A tall elderly man walked up to the table, and asked us if we had read the Declaration of Independence lately. I allowed as how I had read it a couple of years ago. He said, well, you Democrats really ought to read it, gave us a nicely ribbon-bound copy and left. I reread the copy of the Declaration that he had provided, and wondered if he had a point, but did not pursue a dialogue with him.
He and his family were seated directly in front of our table, which was sited in front of City Hall. The tall elderly man told many passersby that we were only registering Democrats. One of the tablers told him that we were registering everyone, but he continued to spread this misinformation. He was also overheard to make many derogatory comments to passersby and table staff about "you liberals" that had no basis in fact and contained no substantive accusations.
He was a unpleasant soul. A young couple with a baby in a stroller politely asked him to step aside so that they could pass, and he did so, slowly, and with an expression of disgust. When the Coastside Land Trust passed by in the parade, he saluted them with an emphatic thumbs down.
We were also closely attended by a spy. This man stood on the sidewalk near us, ostensibly watching the parade. When someone approached the table to register, he stepped back, stood next to us, and closely observed what the person was writing and eavesdropped on our conversations. After I observed his behavior for about 45 minutes, I walked up to him and introduced myself. I asked him his name, and he did not respond in kind. I told him that I had noticed that he was observing our registration process, and told him that if he had any questions, that we would be happy to answer them. I handed him my business card.
He said that he liked it here in Half Moon Bay, and was planning to move here from Millbrae or San Mateo. When the parade ended, the spy left with the tall unpleasant elderly man. I wondered if they had felt that they had done a good day’s work in protecting the ideals under which the United States of America were established.
I know the name of the elderly unpleasant man and have his address. A sister tabler knows him and says that under ordinary circumstances, he is a civil individual. I wonder if I should stop by sometime and make him a proposition: If he will stop lying about us, we will stop telling the truth about him.
Following is an annotated text of the Declaration, obtained from Wikipedia.
The first sentence of the Declaration asserts as a matter of Natural Law the ability of a people to assume political independence, and acknowledges that the grounds for such independence must be reasonable, and therefore explicable, and ought to be explained.
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.
The next section, the famous preamble, includes the ideas and ideals that were principles of the Declaration. It is also an assertion of what is known as the "right of revolution": that is, people have certain rights, and when a government violates these rights, the people have the right to "alter or abolish" that government.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.
The next section is a list of charges against King George which aim to demonstrate that he has violated the colonists’ rights and is therefore unfit to be their ruler:
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.
Many Americans still felt a kinship with the people of England, and had appealed in vain to the prominent among them, as well as to Parliament, to convince the King to relax his more objectionable policies toward the colonies.sic] 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.
In the final section, the signers assert that there exist conditions under which people must change their government, that the British have produced such conditions, and by necessity the colonies must throw off political ties with the British Crown and become independent states. The conclusion incorporates language from the resolution of independence that had been passed on July 2.
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.