Is It Morally Ethical to Read Illegally-obtained Private Emails?

The latest WikiLeaks dump included emails from a U.S. citizen's private email account. John David Podesta, Chairman of the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and previous Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, was hacked and private correspondence released to the media which allegedly revealed inflammatory information.

In response, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) issued a statement:

I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of WikiLeaks. As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it. Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who might want to capitalize politically on these leaks. Today it's the Democrats. Tomorrow, it could be us.

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It was an interesting position to take and one that launched an introspective conversation on Glenn's radio program Wednesday.

Read below or listen to the full segment for answers to these questions:

• What if these private emails had been stolen from you?

• Don't we have a right to be secure in our private papers ?

• Will everything be transparent in the future?

• Is this akin to stealing documents form Apple or IBM?

• Is it morally wrong to look at stolen documents?

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

Below is a rush transcript of this segment, it might contain errors:

GLENN: Let's talk a little bit about Marco Rubio and what he said about WikiLeaks.

STU: Statement to NBC.

He says, "I will not discuss any issue that has become public solely on the basis of WikiLeaks. As our intelligence agencies have said, these leaks are an effort by a foreign government to interfere with our electoral process, and I will not indulge it. Further, I want to warn my fellow Republicans who might want to capitalize politically on these leaks. Today it's the Democrats. Tomorrow, it could be us."

Now, of course, the Bush administration -- I mean, that was the WikiLeaks, the first thing they did, was attack the Bush administration. So it already has been the Republicans at some level.

And I think that part of the statement -- you know, look, today it's Democrats, tomorrow it could be us, appeals to probably most people. But I think it appeals least to me. That's certainly true.

I got to say though, I mean, it is an interesting point, in that, we know that -- or at least we think we know that this is coming from a foreign government. But even that part of it is less of the impact of that statement. To me, I think it's a good point in that it's probably just the wrong thing to do. Discussing these things -- and I understand this is not going to be popular. But discussing stolen documents, things that were stolen from private conversations, and discussing them as election issues, is probably just wrong to do. And I will admit this, that I -- it may just be I'm able to see this because I don't like either of the candidates. You know, like maybe if Ted Cruz was the guy and, you know, Ted Cruz was in a tight election battle, maybe I'd be all over this. I admit that I'm a weak enough idiot that I probably would -- you know, be down that road. I hope I would not. But, I mean --

GLENN: I don't think you would be.

STU: I hope not.

GLENN: Let me ask you this.

STU: It doesn't feel like -- and I think there's a distinction between this and, let's say, Edward Snowden, who is trying to be a whistle-blower on his government. And you can argue, whether he's as bad as well. And we've had that argument many times.

I think there's a difference there. This is just stolen from a foreign government and leaked -- and, again, none of this stuff -- it's like leaked internal questioning of issues. And I don't know, I mean, it feels like --

GLENN: Here's where I have a problem with the WikiLeaks things. We are discussing them, and we don't know what's true or not. We do know that one of the WikiLeaks emails that came out was changed by the government. Right? Remember you talked to us about that last week, that there was one email that was quoting an article that actually had an article in the original.

STU: Right. And they blamed the Democrats. In reality, they were quoting an article that was favorable to Republicans.

GLENN: Correct.

STU: They were basically saying -- I don't remember the exact issue. I think it was Benghazi-related. But it was basically like -- it was acting as if the Democrats behind closed doors knew Hillary was responsible for Benghazi, when in reality, they had sent an article that mentioned something about that --

GLENN: Right.

STU: -- internally to like discuss it.

GLENN: So we know at least one of them has been doctored. How do we know that, Stu? I don't remember the story. How do we know this?

STU: Oh, it was the author of the column saw the email exchange. And said, "Wait a minute. That's not their words. Those are my words. I wrote that."

GLENN: Okay.

STU: And, by the way, the author was critical of Republicans about their handling of Benghazi. It wasn't even a pro-Republican article that was -- it just had one paragraph that said, "Look, this is a fair issue to bring up," essentially, if I remember --

GLENN: So we know that one thing has been changed, out of how many thousands of documents. We don't know what's true and what's not coming from them.

What Edward Snowden did -- I'm really torn. Because every time I talk to anybody in the intelligence community that I respect, they say, "There's no way that he tried to go through the system. There's no way." And what I keep going back to is, if you try to go through the system, if you tried to stop it and nobody would listen, then I agree.

Now, I give him the benefit of the doubt because we know four whistle-blowers who tried to go through the system. I know three or five whistle-blowers -- I don't know them on a first-name basis that tried to show us the corruption in the Department of Homeland Security. And they are afraid for their jobs right now. Okay?

And that was involving a lawsuit that I was in. Those three or five whistle-blowers that provided us with information tried to do it the right way. They could not get any movement. And then the -- the top of the State Department started looking for them, and they were on a weasel hunt. Okay?

So I give Edward Snowden the benefit of the doubt that this was important, constitutional stuff, that our own government was violating. That's not the same as WikiLeaks. This is just a document dump. And you'll notice that they haven't documented -- they haven't document dumped anything on Russia. Nothing on enemies of ours. Only our allies and us. And trying to hurt us with our allies. I don't trust Julian Assange or WikiLeaks at all.

And for us to give them credibility is bad. Is really, really bad. Now, do I believe most of the stuff that has come through? Yeah, I do. I do. The latest is the thing on, you know, what Hillary is saying behind the scenes about how she wants to scrap Obamacare and start over. I believe that. Bill Clinton has said that. That it doesn't work. Obamacare doesn't work. Hillary would rather do her own Hillarycare and be the one who is the savior that fixed it. He got it. He did the hard work. He had it. Now let her fix it. I absolutely believe that. And that was one of the things that came out in WikiLeaks.

But that's not a national secret. That is not something that is constitutional. You know what I mean? It is just behind the scenes. And I don't like the fact that somebody that we can't check the -- the credibility on, we don't know what they're putting -- and they're putting thousands of documents out, I don't -- I'm not comfortable with this. It's not right.

STU: Yeah, I mean -- I just -- it's -- because my initial instinct -- I mean, we've talked about the WikiLeaks emails. I mean, I have a story I put in the prep today about -- which I think is interesting -- their -- the short list for the VPs for Hillary Clinton. And they have every single name on there. And they've broken it into categories.

And it's interesting, to look at this. I mean, the books that will be written about this election will be more detailed probably than any book about any previous election. Because there's so much information about what these guys were thinking at the times these decisions were made. But, I mean -- so my instinct was -- and plus, it's in the media. Everybody is talking about it. They're not hiding it --

GLENN: So what did you learn about it from that list?

STU: Am I not just violating -- it's interesting because they -- they played identity politics, without going into all the details. But like, they thought the same way you think Democrats would think about their VP choice. Here's a bunch of black people. Here's a bunch of women. Here's a bunch of people who -- you know, Hispanics. Here's a bunch of people who were in the military -- you know, like, they broke it into categories like that. It's not crazy.

PAT: And they ignored all that, with a white guy. What a bunch of racists. What a bunch of racists.

STU: Yeah, exactly. And they had a white guy category. Which, I mean, look --

PAT: Who else was on the white guy category?

STU: I can look at it.

PAT: Who was on the black guy category?

STU: Is it not -- am I not violating?

GLENN: Yes, I think you are.

STU: This is new information for me. I will say, I have not processed the Rubio thing. The Rubio thing -- and this goes back to the conversation we had with Steven Crowder.

The Rubio thing challenged what I thought. Honestly, I had not really considered it because we're in the heat of the election. And these things are out there. And I want to know the information. And it was there. And that was basically the amount of thought I put into it. And while I agree, they should -- the Russians should not be trying to influence our election process, I hadn't given it a thought of like, "Maybe we shouldn't even reporting on this stuff. I don't know." You could probably talk me into the opposite.

What's made me --

PAT: Worry about that tomorrow. What's in this one today?

STU: Right. Right. What's made me think today is that it just feels kind of morally wrong. I mean, like, these were stolen from these people. Like -- and while I don't like the people they were stolen from, they were stolen from these people. And, you know, I -- I don't know. I mean, while I don't want to stick my head in the sand and --

GLENN: You have a right to be secure in your papers and your person.

STU: Right? I mean, if this had happened to a candidate that I liked, I would be furious about it. And, you know, just because it's a candidate I don't like, you know, I'm supposed to embrace it? I don't know. It doesn't --

JEFFY: You can worry about it tomorrow and tell us about it today.

GLENN: This is espionage on not a government entity. This is a private corporation.

PAT: Uh-huh.

GLENN: The DNC and the RNC, they're private institutions. It's not a government institution. So nobody has a right -- that's like breaking into IBM and Apple and just releasing all their documents. You don't have a right to do that. You don't have a right.

STU: Right? I'm trying to challenge myself on this.

GLENN: And the only reason why, if you were pitted against -- if you were Microsoft versus Apple and somebody who hated Apple and was in favor of Microsoft broke in to Apple and you thought Steve Jobs was a great guy, and they released all the stuff that Steve Jobs was doing with the government, which they are -- the government, where he is -- he is -- he started his -- you know, his lobbying firm. He is wickedly involved in politics and deeply -- or was deeply involved in -- in making sure the laws worked to Apple's favor. He was putting himself in -- ahead of a line about getting a kidney transplant. That's not right. You can't do that.

But if we would have just -- if somebody would have gone in that was pro Microsoft and then dumped everything bad about Steve Jobs and Apple, would we be okay with that?

We might be because we would be like, "Eh, Steve Jobs, and that leftist, he finally gets his." Does that make it better? It doesn't.

STU: Right. Again, and this is your fault, Glenn, because you've been talking about principles all day.

But, I mean, you think about that, from a principled perspective, probably shouldn't -- probably shouldn't be. Now, look, it's going to be out there anyway. If you want it, you can get it, right?

GLENN: Yeah.

STU: But the question is, do we play into that? And I don't know. Maybe the answer to that is no. I don't know.

GLENN: Well, here's the problem of playing into it --

PAT: Or maybe the answer is yes.

GLENN: It could be. What do you think? What do you think?

PAT: I don't know. Honestly, until this moment, I haven't even considered it.

STU: Right. Right.

GLENN: Isn't that amazing that we haven't? That nobody has brought this up? This is a pretty big principle: You have a right to be secure in your papers, and it's a private institution.

PAT: These aren't papers. These are digital --

GLENN: Yeah, you have a right to your private thoughts and correspondence. You have a right to that.

PAT: Yeah, but they couldn't foresee email.

GLENN: Yeah, I know. I know.

JEFFY: Thank you.

GLENN: So how we are just going ahead and being fine with it -- we're only fine with it because we're on teams.

PAT: Yeah, I don't know.

GLENN: And we think they're all so support. Transparency won't hurt.

STU: There's really no one to call this out.

PAT: It's like stealing from a rich person. They're so rich, it won't matter. Well, just because we don't like them, doesn't mean that their privacy doesn't matter. That's still constitutional, and it's still a moral issue, and we should still abide by principles and values that we preach about all the time.

JEFFY: What if they have billions?

PAT: Well, if they have billions, you can probably take thousands --

GLENN: See, my feeling on this -- this is where I draw the line on Edward Snowden.

What Edward Snowden showed us was, they were violating the Constitution of the United States. They are breaking the law.

PAT: Yes.

GLENN: So it's a whistle-blower to me.

PAT: Yeah.

GLENN: Now, I'm torn on whether or not he did it the right way. I don't think he did. But the information is important because it broke the law.

PAT: Definitely.

GLENN: None of this is law-breaking.

STU: So there's stuff in there that could potentially --

GLENN: And release the law-breaking stuff, possibly. Possibly.

STU: Right.

GLENN: You would have a better chance of being on the moral right side, if it was law-breaking stuff. But just to release people's private emails is absolutely morally reprehensible.

STU: And the issue is. And, you know, I give Rubio credit because he's in a tough spot there. And I think he will tell you --

GLENN: That's not going to help him.

STU: Right. That's not going to help him. He is a guy who takes the world foreign affairs very seriously. So I think his motivation, I think, centrally, probably is that he just -- wait a minute. We're not going to let the Russians invade our election process. And that's a good reason.

GLENN: I got good news for you. It would be an act of war at any other time in our --

STU: Any other time. And I think right now, you have an issue of really neither side has -- has the ability to come out and call this out. One, Trump supporters and Republicans are -- want this information. I mean, there was a Republican congressman -- a Republican congressman, who came out and said, "Thank God for WikiLeaks."

I mean, think about this. This is the Russians hacking our election process, and a Republican congressman said, "Thank God for WikiLeaks."

On the other side, the Democrats have been doing the same thing forever. They used all of this information the same way when it benefited them. So they have no standing. Not to mention, the Clinton campaign has no incentive to draw attention to this. Right? The last thing they want to do is -- I mean, because it's a losing argument for them. Them coming out and saying, "Look, they shouldn't have those private emails."

It doesn't matter. It's a losing argument for them. They can say that, and it's probably true. But it's a losing argument.

So there's really no one with an incentive to come out and say this. And I hope that's -- again, this is why you come to this show, I hope. You come to this show because you want someone who -- you know, a show that's going to not care about those lines.

GLENN: So here's the real answer: The real answer should be that we make our own decision whether or not, and then we consistently apply it. Because everything is going to be transparent. In the years ahead, there's not going to be any secrets.

So do you look into people's private secrets or not? The answer is no, you don't.

JEFFY: You know, but that's the hope of government, right? That fishbowl mentality.

GLENN: No, I think the hope of the government is that you'll react at some point and say, "I want you to clamp down on this," and so they will. And then they have control, and they are the only ones that can look into people's secrets.

Featured Image: John Podesta, Clinton Campaign Chairman, walks to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's Washington DC home October 5, 2016 in Washington, District of Columbia. (Photo Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

By July 9, 1776, a copy of the Declaration of Independence reached New York City, where British naval ships occupied New York Harbor. Revolutionary spirit and tension were running high. George Washington, commander of the Continental forces in New York, read the Declaration aloud in front of City Hall. The crowd cheered wildly, and later that day tore down a statue of King George III. They melted down the statue to make 42,000 musket balls for the ragtag American army.

America's separation from Great Britain was officially in writing. Now came the hard part.

The Declaration of Independence defines who we are, what we believe, and what we aspire to be. It is a mission statement. But no one said it would be easy to implement.

The Declaration was not simply an official announcement of our split from Great Britain. If it was just that, it could've been a lot shorter. It was also an announcement that we're starting a new company, and here's what we're basing it on. It didn't just declare independence — it declared principles. It declared how we were going to organize ourselves once we were out on our own, and it set up guardrails to help ensure we didn't end up like the country we were leaving in the first place.

The Founders set us up for success, but America is now fumbling it away, largely thanks to our dangerous drift from the original blueprints.

In our national discourse, it's hard to find agreement even on fundamentals like the Declaration of Independence anymore. There's no time for old-fashioned things like the Declaration when social media can fuel our outrage around the clock.

We have lost touch with our national DNA.

How often do we jump to outrage before we have any kind of perspective on a matter? In 2017, President Trump had only been in office for one month before over 100 activists rewrote a version of the Declaration of Independence, rewording it with Trump in the King George III role. Trump had been in office for a single month. The focus has shifted from unity to partisan winning at all costs. We have lost touch with our national DNA.

Our basic knowledge of the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights is so weak that we don't have a clue how they relate to each other. As of late 2017, 37 percent of Americans could not name any of our First Amendment rights. And 33 percent of Americans could not name any branch of our government.

Here's another example of our painful misunderstanding. In a Psychology Today article written before the 2016 presidential election, Dr. Mark Goulston was trying to figure out a way to understand Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This is what he came up with:

Trump represents the Declaration of Independence. Clinton represents the U.S. Constitution.

He tries to explain that Trump supporters are eager to declare their independence from the political swamp system. For the Constitution side of things, he wrote:

It [the Constitution] may have stood the test of time for so long because it was drafted following a long, costly and awful war that the founding fathers wanted to prevent from happening again. That intention possibly enabled them to create a document that was relatively free from special interests and personal agendas. [Hillary] Clinton is more like the Constitution than the Declaration of Independence and appears to be more about getting things done than declaratively taking a stand.

Besides being a completely bogus way to interpret Hillary Clinton, this comparison makes your brain hurt because it so fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between the Declaration and the Constitution. They are not rival documents.

He says the Constitution has stood the test of time because the founders wrote it to prevent another long, costly war. What? No. It stands the test of time because it was designed to protect the “unalienable rights" of the Declaration.

He goes on to say that we need a new Constitutional Convention because, “We may just need to retrofit it to fit modern times."

This is the primarily leftist idea that America is up against today — that the founding documents worked well for their time, but that they now need an overhaul. Progressives seem to live by the motto, if it ain't broke, fix it anyway. Rather than “fixing" things, however, when we understand the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as they already are, we discover that they still work because they're tied to universal principles, not a specific point in time.

Here's one way to think about the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. The Declaration is our thesis, or mission statement. The Constitution is the blueprint to implement that mission statement. And the Bill of Rights is our insurance policy.

Aside from the practical business of separating from Great Britain, the gist of the Declaration is that humans have natural rights granted us by God, and that those rights cannot be compromised by man. The Constitution, then, is the practical working out of how do we design a government that best protects our natural rights?

The creation of the Constitution did not give us rights. The existence of our rights created the Constitution. The Constitution just recognizes and codifies those rights, clarifying that the government does not have authority to deprive us of those rights.

The Founders were extremely paranoid about corruption and abuse of power. They designed a system to avoid as much of that as possible.

The Progressive and postmodern idea that rich white guys founded America as an exclusive country club for enriching themselves doesn't hold water. If that had been their true intent, they seriously handicapped themselves with the emphasis on rights and the checks on power that they included in these three documents. Any honest reading of the Constitution, and of the massive ratification debates that dragged on in individual state legislatures, makes one thing very clear — the Founders were extremely paranoid about corruption and abuse of power. They designed a system to avoid as much of that as possible.

Still, this Declaration-Constitution-Bill of Rights-trifecta thing is just a conservative line, right? It's just something we say because we're stuck in the past and we're in denial about the new and improved, diverse, post-gender, postmodern America, right?

As the Declaration puts it, “let facts be submitted to a candid world."

In 1839, on the 50th anniversary of George Washington's inauguration as the nation's first president, the New York Historical Society invited former president John Quincy Adams to deliver a speech. As the son of John Adams, John Quincy wrote a speech about something near and dear to his — the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He said:

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, are parts of one consistent whole, founded upon one and the same theory of government… it had been working itself into the mind of man for many ages… but had never before been adopted by a great nation in practice…

Even in our own country, there are still philosophers who deny the principles asserted in the Declaration, as self-evident truths — who deny the natural equality and inalienable rights of man — who deny that the people are the only legitimate source of power – who deny that all just powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed… I speak to matters of fact. There is the Declaration of Independence, and there is the Constitution of the United States — let them speak for themselves.

They can, and they do. They don't require any interpretation or updates because our inalienable rights have not changed.

Progressives and Democratic Socialists believe our rights come from the government, but the Declaration emphasizes that our rights are inalienable and are granted to mankind by God. By the way, we usually only use the word “inalienable" now when we're talking about the Declaration of Independence, so we often don't even understand the word. It means something that is not transferable, something incapable of being taken away or denied.

We don't know our founding documents anymore and we're witnessing the disastrous results of this deficiency. We've lost sight of what made the American Revolution so unique. It was the first time subjects who had colonized new lands, rebelled against the country they came from. Government by the people and for the people is a principle that changed the world. Most countries fall apart after their revolutions. We thrived because of the firm principles of the Declaration, and the protection of those principles in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. It's a unique system with a remarkable track record, in spite of our human frailty. But this system is not inevitable — for it to continue to work, we must understand and protect it.

From the moment the 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson arrived at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1776, he was on the radical side. That caused John Adams to like him immediately. Then the Congress stuck Jefferson and Adams together on the five-man committee to write a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain, and their mutual admiration society began.

Jefferson thought Adams should write the Declaration. But Adams protested, saying, “It can't come from me because I'm obnoxious and disliked." Adams reasoned that Jefferson was not obnoxious or disliked, therefore he should write it. Plus, he flattered Jefferson, by telling him he was a great writer. It was a master class in passing the buck.

So, over the next 17 days, Jefferson holed up in his room, applying his lawyer skills to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He borrowed freely from existing documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights. He later wrote that “he was not striving for originality of principle or sentiment." Instead, he hoped his words served as “an expression of the American mind."

It's safe to say he achieved his goal.

The five-man committee changed about 25 percent of Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration before submitting it to Congress. Then, Congress altered about one-fifth of that draft. But most of the final Declaration's words are Jefferson's, including the most famous passage — the Preamble — which Congress left intact. The result is nothing less than America's mission statement, the words that ultimately bind the nation together. And words that we desperately need to rediscover because of our boiling partisan rage.

The Declaration is brilliant in structure and purpose. It was designed for multiple audiences: the King of Great Britain, the colonists, and the world. And it was designed for multiple purposes: rallying the troops, gaining foreign allies, and announcing the creation of a new country.

The Declaration is structured in five sections: the Introduction, Preamble, the Body composed of two parts, and the Conclusion. It's basically the most genius breakup letter ever written.

In the Introduction, step 1 is the notificationI think we need to break up. And to be fair, I feel I owe you an explanation...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

The Continental Congress felt they were entitled by “the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to “dissolve the political bands," but they needed to prove the legitimacy of their cause. They were defying the world's most powerful nation and needed to motivate foreign allies to join the effort. So, they set their struggle within the entire “Course of human events." They're saying, this is no petty political spat — this is a major event in world history.

Step 2 is declaring what you believe in, your standardsHere's what I'm looking for in a healthy relationship...

This is the most famous part of the Declaration; the part school children recite — the Preamble:

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's as much as many Americans know of the Declaration. But the Preamble is the DNA of our nation, and it really needs to be taken as a whole:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Preamble takes us through a logical progression: All men are created equal; God gives all humans certain inherent rights that cannot be denied; these include the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; to protect those rights, we have governments set up; but when a government fails to protect our inherent rights, people have the right to change or replace it.

Government is only there to protect the rights of mankind. They don't have any power unless we give it to them. That was an extraordinarily radical concept then and we're drifting away from it now.

The Preamble is the justification for revolution. But note how they don't mention Great Britain yet. And again, note how they frame it within a universal context. These are fundamental principles, not just squabbling between neighbors. These are the principles that make the Declaration just as relevant today. It's not just a dusty parchment that applied in 1776.

Step 3 is laying out your caseHere's why things didn't work out between us. It's not me, it's you...

This is Part 1 of the Body of the Declaration. It's the section where Jefferson gets to flex his lawyer muscles by listing 27 grievances against the British crown. This is the specific proof of their right to rebellion:

He has obstructed the administration of justice...

For imposing taxes on us without our consent...

For suspending our own legislatures...

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us...

Again, Congress presented these “causes which impel them to separation" in universal terms to appeal to an international audience. It's like they were saying, by joining our fight you'll be joining mankind's overall fight against tyranny.

Step 4 is demonstrating the actions you took I really tried to make this relationship work, and here's how...

This is Part 2 of the Body. It explains how the colonists attempted to plead their case directly to the British people, only to have the door slammed in their face:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury...

They too have been deaf to the voice of justice... We must, therefore... hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

This basically wrapped up America's argument for independence — we haven't been treated justly, we tried to talk to you about it, but since you refuse to listen and things are only getting worse, we're done here.

Step 5 is stating your intent — So, I think it's best if we go our separate ways. And my decision is final...

This is the powerful Conclusion. If people know any part of the Declaration besides the Preamble, this is it:

...that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved...

They left no room for doubt. The relationship was over, and America was going to reboot, on its own, with all the rights of an independent nation.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The message was clear — this was no pitchfork mob. These were serious men who had carefully thought through the issues before taking action. They were putting everything on the line for this cause.

The Declaration of Independence is a landmark in the history of democracy because it was the first formal statement of a people announcing their right to choose their own government. That seems so obvious to us now, but in 1776 it was radical and unprecedented.

In 1825, Jefferson wrote that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of… but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm… to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take."

You're not going to do better than the Declaration of Independence. Sure, it worked as a means of breaking away from Great Britain, but its genius is that its principles of equality, inherent rights, and self-government work for all time — as long as we actually know and pursue those principles.

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania State House, better known today as Independence Hall. Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee introduced a motion calling for the colonies' independence. The “Lee Resolution" was short and sweet:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Intense debate followed, and the Congress voted 7 to 5 (with New York abstaining) to postpone a vote on Lee's Resolution. They called a recess for three weeks. In the meantime, the delegates felt they needed to explain what they were doing in writing. So, before the recess, they appointed a five-man committee to come up with a formal statement justifying a break with Great Britain. They appointed two men from New England — Roger Sherman and John Adams; two from the middle colonies — Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin; and one Southerner — Thomas Jefferson. The responsibility for writing what would become the Declaration of Independence fell to Jefferson.

In the rotunda of the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., there are three original documents on permanent display: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These are the three pillars of the United States, yet America barely seems to know them anymore. We need to get reacquainted — quickly.

In a letter to his friend John Adams in 1816, Jefferson wrote: “I like the dreams of the future, better than the history of the past."

America used to be a forward-looking nation of dreamers. We still are in spots, but the national attitude that we hear broadcast loudest across media is not looking toward the future with optimism and hope. In late 2017, a national poll found 59% of Americans think we are currently at the “lowest point in our nation's history that they can remember."

America spends far too much time looking to the past for blame and excuse. And let's be honest, even the Right is often more concerned with “owning the left" than helping point anyone toward the practical principles of the Declaration of Independence. America has clearly lost touch with who we are as a nation. We have a national identity crisis.

The Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

It is urgent that we get reacquainted with the Declaration of Independence because postmodernism would have us believe that we've evolved beyond the America of our founding documents, and thus they're irrelevant to the present and the future. But the Declaration of Independence is America's thesis statement, and without it America doesn't exist.

Today, much of the nation is so addicted to partisan indignation that "day-to-day" indignation isn't enough to feed the addiction. So, we're reaching into America's past to help us get our fix. In 2016, Democrats in the Louisiana state legislature tabled a bill that would have required fourth through sixth graders to recite the opening lines of the Declaration. They didn't table it because they thought it would be too difficult or too patriotic. They tabled it because the requirement would include the phrase “all men are created equal" and the progressives in the Louisiana legislature didn't want the children to have to recite a lie. Representative Barbara Norton said, “One thing that I do know is, all men are not created equal. When I think back in 1776, July the fourth, African Americans were slaves. And for you to bring a bill to request that our children will recite the Declaration, I think it's a little bit unfair to us. To ask our children to recite something that's not the truth. And for you to ask those children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men's are free. I think that's unfair."

Remarkable — an elected representative saying it wouldn't be fair for students to have to recite the Declaration because “all men are not created equal." Another Louisiana Democrat explained that the government born out of the Declaration “was used against races of people." I guess they missed that part in school where they might have learned that the same government later made slavery illegal and amended the Constitution to guarantee all men equal protection under the law. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were an admission of guilt by the nation regarding slavery, and an effort to right the wrongs.

Yet, the progressive logic goes something like this: many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, including Thomas Jefferson who wrote it, owned slaves; slavery is evil; therefore, the Declaration of Independence is not valid because it was created by evil slave owners.

It's a sad reality that the left has a very hard time appreciating the universal merits of the Declaration of Independence because they're so hung up on the long-dead issue of slavery. And just to be clear — because people love to take things out of context — of course slavery was horrible. Yes, it is a total stain on our history. But defending the Declaration of Independence is not an effort to excuse any aspect of slavery.

Okay then, people might say, how could the Founders approve the phrase “All men are created equal," when many of them owned slaves? How did they miss that?

They didn't miss it. In fact, Thomas Jefferson included an anti-slavery passage in his first draft of the Declaration. The paragraph blasted King George for condoning slavery and preventing the American Colonies from passing legislation to ban slavery:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights to life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere... Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.

We don't say “execrable" that much anymore. It means, utterly detestable, abominable, abhorrent — basically very bad.

Jefferson was upset when Georgia and North Carolina threw up the biggest resistance to that paragraph. Ultimately, those two states twisted Congress' arm to delete the paragraph.

Still, how could a man calling the slave trade “execrable" be a slaveowner himself? No doubt about it, Jefferson was a flawed human being. He even had slaves from his estate in Virginia attending him while he was in Philadelphia, in the very apartment where he was writing the Declaration.

Many of the Southern Founders deeply believed in the principles of the Declaration yet couldn't bring themselves to upend the basis of their livelihood. By 1806, Virginia law made it more difficult for slave owners to free their slaves, especially if the owner had significant debts as Jefferson did.

At the same time, the Founders were not idiots. They understood the ramifications of signing on to the principles described so eloquently in the Declaration. They understood that logically, slavery would eventually have to be abolished in America because it was unjust, and the words they were committing to paper said as much. Remember, John Adams was on the committee of five that worked on the Declaration and he later said that the Revolution would never be complete until the slaves were free.

Also, the same generation that signed the Declaration started the process of abolition by banning the importation of slaves in 1807. Jefferson was President at the time and he urged Congress to pass the law.

America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough.

The Declaration took a major step toward crippling the institution of slavery. It made the argument for the first time about the fundamental rights of all humans which completely undermined slavery. Planting the seeds to end slavery is not nearly commendable enough for leftist critics, but you can't discount the fact that the seeds were planted. It's like they started an expiration clock for slavery by approving the Declaration. Everything that happened almost a century later to end slavery, and then a century after that with the Civil Rights movement, flowed from the principles voiced in the Declaration.

Ironically for a movement that calls itself progressive, it is obsessed with retrying and judging the past over and over. Progressives consider this a better use of time than actually putting past abuses in the rearview and striving not to be defined by ancestral failures.

It can be very constructive to look to the past, but not when it's used to flog each other in the present. Examining history is useful in providing a road map for the future. And America has an obvious road map that, as a nation, we're not consulting often enough. But it's right there, the original, under glass. The ink is fading, but the words won't die — as long as we continue to discuss them.

'Good Morning Texas' gives exclusive preview of Mercury One museum

Screen shot from Good Morning Texas

Mercury One is holding a special exhibition over the 4th of July weekend, using hundreds of artifacts, documents and augmented reality experiences to showcase the history of slavery — including slavery today — and a path forward. Good Morning Texas reporter Paige McCoy Smith went through the exhibit for an exclusive preview with Mercury One's chief operating officer Michael Little on Tuesday.

Watch the video below to see the full preview.

Click here to purchase tickets to the museum (running from July 4 - 7).