Thursday, July 04, 2013

Immigration, Indians, and Voting Rights in the Declaration of Independence

Two issues that are still burning in the US today that caught my attention:
While rereading the Declaration of Independence, three of the 27 particulars the writers listed, caught my eye as of particular relevance as we celebrate July 4th in 2013.


Item number 7:
"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."
The a project of the Claremont Institute explains this desire for more immigration to the Colonies and England's resistence this way:
This charge relates to the King's opposition to various colonial laws passed for the purpose of encouraging immigration to America. The British government feared that such encouragement would reduce the population of England and lure away workers who would otherwise be employed in its domestic industries. In addition, the King issued orders that made it more difficult to obtain land by royal grant. Americans believed that one part of the unalienable right to liberty was the liberty to make use of property to provide for oneself and one's family. To that end, government should make unused land available to the people by homestead or auction, so that it can be put to use by their labor. The King, however, treated all land in America as his, to be granted or to be withheld from others at his pleasure, even though neither he nor his officers had expended any labor upon it. 
There are people who fear the influx of foreigners today and want walls to keep immigrants out.  Some of those same folk cite the founders and the 2nd Amendment as reasons for no laws whatsoever that regulate the possession of guns in the US. It seems to me that in the first case, they are, at least implicitly, saying that conditions have changed, while in the second, they are saying nothing has changed.  

I realize that the Declaration of Independence is NOT the Constitution.  My point is that times change and we need to adjust to those changes. The need for immigrants today is different than it was 200 years ago, and so is the issue of bearing arms.  I'd encourage these folks to loosen up on immigration and also loosen up a bit on guns.  Afterall, the founding fathers were all for immigration. 


Item #27
"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."
There's a screaming irony here.  While the colonists' representatives are complaining to the British King that they aren't being allowed to govern themselves and find their own path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they are mimic the King in their dealings with the people already living in the New World.  I'm sure the words for merciless and savage in the various Native American languages were frequently to describe their treatment by the European settlers. 

But there's more according to

The British had encouraged slave and Indian revolts against the colonists. For example, in 1775, Lord Dunmore of Virginia, swore to members of the Virginia House of Burgesses that if "any Injury or insult were offered to himself" he would "declare Freedom to the Slaves, and reduce the City of Williamsburg to Ashes." The governors of North and South Carolina also were planning similar uprisings. General Gage, commander in chief of the British army in America, tried to persuade various of the Indian tribes to attack the colonists.
In Jefferson's original version of the Declaration, this charge was followed by a long passage condemning King George for having failed to suppress the slave trade to America. According to Jefferson's autobiography, Congress struck the passage from the final version of the Declaration in deference to South Carolina and Georgia, who wanted to continue the slave trade with Africa.
This is the stricken passage: "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another." [This continues here.]

Voting Rights

Item #4
"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."
 Just after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which was aimed at preventing states from moving polling places to unusual, uncomfortable, and distant locations for the sole purpose of fatiguing voters into not voting, I see that these kinds of  practices were already well known in 1776.  In this case, the British set up legislative sessions where it would difficult if not impossible for colonists to attend and participate.  The point is trying to thwart an activity by making it hard to access.

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