Declaration of Independence

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.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declaration of Independence

                    The United States Declaration of Independence was an announcement that the thirteen American colonies "regarded themselves as independent states and no longer part of the British Empire."  The document was "ultimately a formal explanation of why Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from Great Britain."  The Americans declared independence more than a year after the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired.

The responsibility for drafting the Declaration was given to a committee, but "John Adams persuaded the committee to select Thomas Jefferson to compose the original draft of the document, which congress would edit to produce the final version."  The wording was perfected over a period of time before being approved and adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.  John Hancock signed the handwritten paper and sent it to the printing shop of John Dunlap, who worked through the night to print about 200 copies for distribution.  The Declaration was read to audiences and reprinted in newspapers. 

John Hancock sent one copy to General George Washington with instructions for Washington to "have it proclaimed" "at the Head of the Army in the way you shall think it most proper."  The troops were at that time in New York City - not far from the British forces.  Washington and Congress "hoped that the Declaration would inspire the soldiers, and encourage others to join the army."  The document was read to the colonial troops on July 9.  I am convinced that the Declaration had a great effect on the soldiers as it caused their fellow Americans to tear down and destroy "signs or statues representing royalty.  An equestrian statue of King George in New York City was pulled down and the lead used to make musket balls." 

"The most famous version of the Declaration, a signed copy that is usually regarded as the Declaration of Independence, is displayed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Although the wording of the Declaration was approved on July 4, the date of its signing was August 2.  The original July 4 United States Declaration of Independence manuscript was lost while all other copies have been derived from this original document."

The preamble to the Declaration begins "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."  "This has been called `one of the best-known sentences in the English language," containing `the most potent and consequential words in American history.'  The passage came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should strive.  This view was notably promoted by Abraham Lincoln, who considered the Declaration to be the foundation of his political philosophy, and argued that the Declaration is a statement of principles through which the United States Constitution should be interpreted.  It has inspired work for the rights of marginalized people throughout the world."

The Declaration is essentially divided into five sections.  The first sentence states that natural law is the foundation upon which any group of people assumes political independence.  The second section is known as the Preamble and includes the ideas, ideals, and principles upon which independence was declared.  The third section contains a list of colonial grievances and charges against King George III and the attempts made by the colonists to solve the problems. The fourth section explains the disappointment that the attempts were not successful.  The last section declares that the colonists had no choice but to declare independence because of the conditions caused by the King.

                    Every American citizen should read or hear the entire Declaration of Independence at least once each year.  Independence Day is an ideal occasion for reviewing why the United States of America came to be; therefore, I am including a copy of the Declaration of Independence in my post today.

                    When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the power of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

                    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.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  --  Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.  The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

                    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

                    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

                    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

                    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 

                    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

                    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

                    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

                    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

                    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

                    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

                    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

                    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

                    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

                    For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

                    For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

                    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

                    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

                    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

                    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

                    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

                    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

                    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

                    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

                    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

                    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

                    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

                    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

                    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.  A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

                    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.  We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.  We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here.  We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.  They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity.  We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

                    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right out 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.  -- 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.

New HampshireJosiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

MassachusettsJohn Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode IslandStephen Hopkins, William Ellery

ConnecticutRoger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New YorkWilliam Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New JerseyRichard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

PennsylvaniaRobert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

DelawareCaesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

MarylandSamuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

VirginiaGeorge Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North CarolinaWilliam Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South CarolinaEdward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

GeorgiaButton Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

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