The Struggle for Self-Government
Every man, and every body of men on earth, possesses the right of self-government.” —Thomas Jefferson
And, what – pray tell – is self-government? Here’s a definition from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for you to chew on:
government under the control and direction of the inhabitants of a political unit rather than by an outside authority ; broadly : control of one’s own affairs
In the Virgin Islands – despite the appearance of a local government – as an unincorporated territory, we are governed by an outside authority in Washington, D.C.
an unincorporated territory is an area under U.S. jurisdiction, to which Congress has determined that only select parts of the U.S. Constitution apply. Unincorporated territories are essentially colonies, under the supremacy clause, receiving only whatever powers are offered by the U.S. Congress.
Did you know that we are not fully protected by the Constitution? As “essentially” a colony, the Virgin Islands clearly lacks self-government. And, without self-go vernment we lack Liberty! Without full constitutional protections, the responsibility lies with us to order our own affairs.
Right now, I’m reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. And, tonight I read something of great importance to our present situation:
Plymouth, Providence, New Haven, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were founded without the help, and almost without the knowledge, of the mother country. The new settlers did not derive their powers from the head of the empire, although they did not deny its supremacy; they constituted themselves into a society, and it was not till thirty or forty years afterwards…that their existence was legally recognized by a royal charter.
Why do we continue to wait for the assistance of a government that has no intention of seeing our incorporation into the mother country? We do not derive our powers from the federal government. But, as Thomas Jefferson said:
Of critical importance is this:
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 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.
Our rights are not given to us by the federal government, but by God. And, we do not derive our power from the federal government but from the consent of the governed. Have you given the federal government your consent to be governed? Have you given the Virgin Islands Government your consent? Have you even thought about it? Is it not tyranny to be governed without your consent?
Yet, who is speaking for our right to self-government? Has the Governor argued for it? Or better, has our “representative” argued for it?
Here’s the example of former Alaska Delegate to Congress (before statehood) Anthony J. Dimond:
In Alaska we have often complained of the long-range government from Washington, which in many respects is the only kind of government possible under our territorial status. We have talked disparagingly about “bureaus” and “bureaucrats” and have denounced the ineptitude of both. Therefore, I suggest that the people of Alaska should, and do, ardently desire statehood unless economic or other considerations still prevent the accomplishment of that ambition. We all know that we can do a better job in taking care of our own affairs than can be done by some secretary of a department, or chief of an agency, or head of a bureau, whose o ffice is in Washington, D.C., and who necessarily is lacking intimate, first-hand knowledge of a country so far away from Washington as Alaska.
Could not the same be said for us? Should not the same be said? Are we not plagued by unaccountable third-party fiduciaries, and receiverships? (Please read those articles.) Yet, as I search the website of the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs (Chaired by Delegate Christensen), I find no definitive stance on the prom otion of self-government. So who will stand for a government by our consent?
With no one standing for us, it is clear that the statement is true: “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…”
Is it not time for us to institute new Government, at last with the consent of the governed?
Answer the call: Virgin Islands for the Virgin Islanders…those at home and those abroad!