All Commentary
Wednesday, July 1, 1987

Perspective: A Fourth of July Pledge

“. . . [T]he mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.” Thomas Jefferson, who wrote those words on June 24, 1826, was the author of our Declaration of Independence,

He had been invited to attend the festivities in Washington on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration. Jefferson, then 83 years old, regretted that ill health prevented his accepting. “I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword.”

Jefferson rejoiced “that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the fights of man . . . These are grounds of hope for others.”

This was the last letter Thomas Jefferson wrote. He died on that Fourth of July.

Since that 50th anniversary of the Declaration’s signing in 1826, the rights of countless millions to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been tragically snuffed out and vio lated. Yet today, as in Jefferson’s time, many “eyes are opened, or opening, to the fights of man.” Progress is being made in some respects. As Jefferson wrote, “These are grounds of hope for others.”

It is fitting and proper to join Jefferson, especially on the Fourth of July of each year, in reaffirming our dedication to individual freedom under limited government. In Jefferson’s words, “For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”


Chinese Revolution

“Nobody gives up power willingly. The Communist Party isn’t going to give up power. I don’t know what shape another revolution might take. The Cultural Revolution [launched by Mao in the mid-1960s to regain power within the party] was a revolution from above. We need one from below.” (from an interview with a Peking University student, reported in The Wall Street Journal, January 8, 1987.)

For more on the subject, see Donald J. Senese’s “China’s ‘Free Enterprise’ Experiment” on page 265.

Freedom Is the Antidote

A recent study of deaths due to man’s inhumanity to men tells just how elusive the goal of “Peace on earth, goodwill to men” has been.

R. J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii calculates 35 million people have been killed by wars so far this century. Over three times that number, however, 119 million, have been killed by their own governments. Of that total, 95 million were killed by communist governments. Only 800,000 were killed by democracies, and a major part of that was refugees re-patriated to Russia at the end of World War II by the democracies.

Nikolai Tolstoy’s book, Stalin’s Secret War, confirms in vivid detail how Stalin killed millions in his lust for power, and the killing continues. Up to two million Cambodians were killed when the communists took over. Millions are being starved in Ethiopia today, just as Stalin starved ten million in the Ukraine to eliminate dissident factions.

Rummel’s conclusion from his study is that “Absolutism, not war, is mankind’s deadliest scourge.” He also concludes that “Absolutist governments . . . are themselves the major factor causing war . . .”

Absolutism is defined as “The political doctrine or practice of unlimited power . . . vested in a monarch, dictator, or oligarchy,” and tyranny is a synonym. That definition certainly fits communism as practiced by the Soviet Union today.

The opposite of tyranny (absolutism) is, of course, freedom. If tyranny is mankind’s greatest scourge, then freedom is the antidote to promote “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

Elmer Fike

President, Fike Chemicals, Inc.

Nitro, West Virginia