March 01, 2022

True Safety and Happiness

by Professor Robert J. Barth

True Safety and Happiness

One of the enumerated unalienable rights is the “pursuit of happiness.” Within the Declaration this truth is reiterated in the context of the right of the people to alter or abolish an existing form of government. If a form of government becomes destructive of the ends of securing the unalienable rights of the people, they (the body politic) are to reevaluate the principles upon which the form of government was based. Plus, they are to reconsider the organization of powers within the existing form of government. This all should be done for the purpose of altering an ineffective existing form or instituting a new form of government for effecting the people’s safety and happiness.

When any form of government becomes ineffective or destructive of the ends of securing unalienable rights, the affected body politic should “institute a new form of government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” Yet, the Declaration goes on to state boldly that prudence requires that “governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” Because of passions and ambitions, our founders knew that governments should not be easily changed and certainly not without the consent of the people. The forms of governments should never be subject to change only because a majority of individuals of one political persuasion were elected over another.

Individuals representing the people may change by virtue of elections, but regardless of differing perspectives, each elected official is bound by oath to uphold and support the principles and truths in the state constitution. They are not there to reign over the people, but to serve and protect the unalienable rights of the people. If they fail at this, they should be removed from office, but ineffective or rogue politicians should never be an impetus to change a form of government.  Only if and when honorable public servants and statesmen see that an existing form of government is infringing upon or failing to protect the liberties of the people, should proposals to change the form of government be advocated for consideration by the people.

The goal of any proposed changes must be to improve upon the ways unalienable rights are secured and to effect the people’s “safety and happiness.”  Safety includes protections of life, liberty, and property. Happiness includes individual freedoms to work, associate, assemble, own property, worship, speak, and travel, etc., for the purpose of fulfilling one’s duties to the Creator. As previously mention, pursuing happiness does not include lawless activity or pursuits that violates the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Our founders understood the connection between righteousness and true happiness. As Blackstone said, “true and substantial happiness” results from those actions that are “a part of the law of nature.”  If “this or that action is destructive of man’s real happiness” the law of nature “forbids it.”


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About the Author

Professor Robert J. Barth
A graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S. 1976), Professor Robert J. Barth received his Juris Doctor from Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1979. He received his Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Regent University in 1986. From 1986 to 1995, Professor Barth was associated with Regent University School of Law in several capacities, including assistant dean for academic and student affairs, and editor of the Journal of Christian Jurisprudence. He has written several articles, and as the director for academic programs, he has authored Oak Brook College’s book, Renewing Your Mind as You Study Law.


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