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Liberty and authority exist side by side in some modern states but they are uneasy neighbours. Where should the line between them be drawn? When does liberty become licence? When does authority become tyranny?
Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814).
This inquiry explores the rights and responsibilities of a citizen of the United States and the rights and responsibilities of the government of the United States toward its citizens. As such, it must begin with the first legal document issued by the Congress of the United States which brought this government about—the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
The Second Continental Congress of the United States made this declaration under the guidance found in De Vattel’s The Law of Nations (Book II, Chapter IV, “Of the Declaration of War,—and of War in Due Form”).* The preamble states plainly the principles on which the founding fathers based their ideas of the rights of the people and the purpose of a government:
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.
John Rogers—Burned at the Stake for Heresy, February 4, 1555.
No inquiry into the founding of the United States can ignore its roots in the Protestant Reformation. Early Protestants pioneered the philosophy that each individual human being held the same divine rights that the Kings and clergy claimed for themselves only.
These early Protestant leaders and philosophers not only taught individual rights, they—particularly the Calvinists and their English progeny, the Puritans—practiced them, and backed them by arms when necessary.