We would have picked up on this letter to the editor no matter what. While the writer is from Satellite Beach, it is not the area from which the writer hails which caught our eye, but the lack of knowledge.
Last Saturday, I watched the installation of Congressman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as the deputy savior of “America’s Comeback Team” at Norfolk, Va.
When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, he appeared on the bunting festooned battleship Wisconsin and proceeded
down the steps to the stage, where he introduced the “next president of the United States, Paul Ryan” (small gaffe, corrected later). Ryan then proceeded down the steps from the battleship to the stage.
I thought about the incongruity of these politicians, neither having any time in the military, entering off a World War II ship like returning heroes.
Congressman Ryan gave a stirring speech, declaring the Romney-Ryan team can save the country. Then he sent my head spinning. He said our rights come from nature and God, not the government. Wow. Here I thought our Founding Fathers formed a government that established our rights in the Constitution and further refined these rights in amendments to that document.
If he feels the government is not essential to those rights, why is he making a career out of government service?
Let’s start with the easiest refutation of the point that rights are derived from government – our own Declaration of Independence
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
Contrary to Mr. Miller’s assertion, rights are derived from nature or God. It is not up to the government to establish those rights, but rather to protect those rights.
Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker. But if we had not, our fathers have earned and bought it for us, at the expense of their ease, their estates, their pleasure, and their blood. – John Adams, 1765
Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792
“Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” Benjamin Franklin
Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature. – Samuel Adams
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 18, 1781
The rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of Government was instituted. – James Madison
“Among the objects of the Constitution of this Commonwealth, Liberty & Equality stand in a conspicuous light. It is the first article in our declaration of rights, all men are born free & equal, & have certain natural, essential & unalienable rights. In the supposed state of nature, all men are equally bound by the laws of nature, or to speak more properly, the laws of the Creator: They are imprinted by the finger of God on the heart of man.” Samuel Adams
Clearly Mr. Miller is wrong on the establishment of rights. He is also confused when he asks what we believe is a somewhat rhetorical question of “If he feels the government is not essential to those rights, why is he making a career out of government service?”
That answer is simple: Ryan believes that by serving in the government he helps protect the rights of the people.
The rights of men are not granted by the documents upon which the country is founded, they are simply enumerated by those documents.
The difference in Mr. Miller’s position and those of the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution could not be more stark. If Mr. Miller truly believes rights are derived from the government, it follows that those rights can be taken away by the government. Does Mr. Miller really want to say that the freedom of speech is dependent upon the consent of the government?
The consequences of that belief is horrifying.
We’ll leave this with two quotes that are applicable to Mr. Miller, his letter and his beliefs:
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson to Charles Yancey, 1816
Do not separate text from historical background. If you do you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution. – James Madison