The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday is the principle of liberty that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." We know from this statement in the Declaration of Independence that the Founders understood that the basic rights of mankind come directly from God and not from any government authority. These unalienable rights are also called natural rights. No man or government has the authority to take these rights from us without answering to God, but we can use our agency unwisely and forfeit them.
It is important that we understand that our basic rights come from God and not from the government. Rights that come from God can be taken away only by God. Rights that come from the government are often taken away by the government. If we believe our unalienable rights come from the government, then there is a good chance that government will start to take those rights away from us. This is probably one reason why progressives are trying to take God out of the equation all together. The rights created by governments are called vested rights. They include such rights as the opportunity to hunt in a certain area or season and the opportunity to use a certain highway or the right to obtain a driving license at a certain age. These are the kinds of rights that the government has authority to change or take from us.
The Founders did not include all of mankind's unalienable or natural rights in the Declaration of Independence. Some other natural rights are enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights: the right to self-government, the right to bear arms, the right to worship as we choose, the right to a fair trial, the right of free press, the right to petition our government, the right to speak freely, and the right to assemble. There are still other natural rights such as the right to choose our own mate, place to live, and profession and the right to have children.
The phrase "pursuit of happiness" was well understood at the time it was written, but some people in our day question what it means. John Adams clearly explained it when he stated, "All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness." (George A. Peek, Jr., ed., The Political Writings of John Adams, Liberal Arts press, New York, 1954, p 96, as quoted by W. Cleon Skousen in The 5000 Year Leap, p 96).