“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 Declaration of Independence is a document with the sole intention of separating the British colonies from their former masters. The justification with which our founding fathers brought invoked the above text is found in the despotism brought about by the British crown. Historical context for this sentiment can be found in the list of injustices by the crown towards the colonies as described by Jefferson in the declaration. These include the intolerable acts, the lack of representation involved with legislation and taxation, cutting off trade with other parts of the world, and finally the tipping point of the atrocious Boston Massacre.
Due to these and many more injustices, the colonists gained a view of their government as tyrannical and corrupt, this view can easily resonate with Americans today, especially when regarding the various Orwellian acts perpetrated by the Federal Government in recent years. Many Americans are fed up with the feds, the constant invasions of privacy, interference in personal choices, and ever increasing power being left in the hands of the national government (specifically the executive) many Americans are rightfully indignant. Will this lead to secession and rebellion? I highly doubt that, however a drastic change in those who make up our government as well as the policies of our government is surely necessary and proper.
The quote itself has changed meaning slightly since the time from whence it came. However it is still relevant today despite these changes. Though America may impede on the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of it’s citizens on certain occasions, it is in no way an absolute despotism like what was dealt with by the founders. Also the meaning today is much less literal, and more metaphorical and rhetorical. To literally secede and rebel would be inadvisable and a tragic mistake, but to have a change in management, to “throw off such government, and to provide new Guards” is not only necessary, but happens every election season. So it still has relevance, hyperbolic, metaphoric, and rhetorical relevance specifically.
Though the founders were wise men and all patriots as well as scholars, as Americans, it is our right, it is our duty, to change the government as needed by the changing times. This fact is illustrated by none other than the founders themselves amending their own constitution after realizing what needed to be added by the bill of rights. This was evident also after the civil war necessitated the drafting and implementation of a new set of amendments to protect the rights of American citizens better. Does this mean to tear up the constitution, bill of rights, and other pieces of early American governmental works? No, the constitution and bill of rights are documents of paramount importance to how we govern ourselves. They articulate the values that America was founded on: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all citizens regardless of their origins; the unique freedom to be represented in the decision making of our nation to help control our future. As well as government limited by the philosophy of pluralism and the power dispersion of federalism. America offers protection under the law for all citizens via due process, habeas corpus, and the bill of rights. Most importantly, the founding fathers knew that their works would need to be revised as time progressed, and as a result of this foresight, they put in place ways for the American citizens to change their government and they did this because they had lived under the oppressive boot of a nation that did not allow for citizen participation in government.