“Imperialism Against the Declaration of Independence” American Sentinel 13, 47, pp. 744, 745.

NOW THAT the United States Government has started in on a policy of imperialism, the upholders of this policy are conscious of the necessity of justifying it in the face of the fundamental principles of republican government to which such a policy is squarely opposed. And this, accordingly, they are attempting by various means to do. And naturally, the arguments which they put forward for the purpose are both novel and startling. Here, for example, is one by the Hon. Hosea Knowlton, Attorney-General of Massachusetts, which is quoted approvingly by the New York Sun. The Sun boldly declares that there is no natural right of suffrage; that the idea that government without the consent of the governed is un-American, is wholly erroneous; and then quotes this statement by the Hon. Mr. Knowlton of Massachusetts as very “neatly” showing this fact:—

“The Declaration of Independence has nothing to do with political rights. It has always been true that a majority of our people have not had anything to say about the Government. The people of the territories have no right to vote. Until recently no colored man was allowed to vote in the South. You may say this last fact was settled by the war, but that was not what the war settled.

“The war decided that the negro should be free, and nothing more. No descendant of the Chinese nation can vote. No Indian can vote. And the largest and best-behaved portion of our population has never had the right to suffrage in any considerable part of the country.

“In other words, the great principle on which this Government was founded did not concede the natural right of suffrage. The Declaration of Independence declares for ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ which, being freely translated, means the right to acquire property.

“When any one, therefore, says that there is danger that the whole body of the inhabitants of Hawaii will be precipitated upon us as voters, or that the Malays of Luzon will soon be running Congress, he does not know what he is talking about. Forty-five States manage the Government of this country, and no one else can exercise the right of suffrage until they give him permission.”

We confess that we never knew before that our patriotic forefathers of Washington’s time wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and fought through the Revolutionary war to vindicate their “right [745] to acquire property”! No American history that we have yet seen intimates that they were not at the time freely acquiring property in proportion to their business ability to do so, or that Great Britain ever attempted to interfere with them in this pursuit. What history does affirm in this matter is that Great Britain proposed to tax the American colonies without allowing them political representation in parliament; which meant that she proposed to govern her American colonies without their consent. The colonies stood for the principle of government by the consent of the governed; and to affirm this principle before the world they put forth the Declaration of Independence, declaring in it, as self-evident truths, that all men are created equal, endowed by creation with certain inalienable rights, and that to preserve these rights is the only legitimate purpose of civil government. To say that all this, and the long struggle which followed, were for the purpose of vindicating their “right to acquire property,” is not only to set aside plain historical facts, but to cast contempt upon the Declaration of Independence and its signers, and to rob that document of all the meaning which has made it glorious in American history, and marvelous in the estimation of the world.

If the Declaration of Independence does not affirm the consent of the governed to be a primary requisite of just government, it does not affirm anything, and might as well be cast as a hypocritical play upon words.

This bulwark of American rights and liberties is now boldly attacked by the champions of imperialism for the sake of new possessions abroad; and in doing this, they of necessity sweep away the safeguards of liberty and justice at home.

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