Above is the document that altered the course of human history and gave birth to the modern world, with its unending quest for freedom, independence, and equality. The Declaration of Independence, issued by the thirteen states of America, was a powerful form of protest against the King of Great Britain who consistently refused to address his subjects’ long list of grievances. “A Prince,” the American colonists wrote. “whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Left on their own, without any support from their “British brethren,” the colonists had no option but to seek separation and establish the first modern republic—the United States of America.
Things didn’t have to come to this, if only King George III had listened and acted with good will toward his distant subjects. The Preamble of the Declaration makes this clear when it justifies the need to revolt against rulers but warns against doing so for flimsy reasons. It starts by saying:
“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.”
People, in other words, need governments that work best for them.
But, the founders continue:
“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.”
Changing a government is a decision that should only be considered in extreme situations, when rulers show no sign of attending to their people’s needs.
“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.”
Only intolerable despotism justifies revolutions.
A few days ago, I wrote about “Sultanic Democracy" as the best model for Muslims trying to figure a way out of their political impasse. We have grown accustomed to the notion that a monarchy is antithetical to freedom. It is not if people’s rights are guaranteed.
That is what the Declaration of Independence clearly suggests.