15. The Declaration

07/04/2012

To whomever may be reading this, Happy Independence Day!

I knew that I wanted to post an entry today, and after giving the matter some thought, I decided that there could be nothing more appropriate than to post the reason we celebrate July 4 as a national holiday.

That reason, of course, is the Declaration Of Independence.  As R.B. Bernstein put it, “the last American word in the argument between Great Britain and its American colonists.”  Or as I described it in a previous entry, an indictment of charges of tyranny against King George III of England.

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted three resolutions that had been introduced by Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee.  The first of these resolutions was a declaration that the 13 colonies “are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”  Two days later, the Continental Congress approved a declaration primarily written by Thomas Jefferson.

And now, I have gone on for far too long.  I give you Mr. Jefferson’s words.

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

ACTION OF SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America

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 Powers 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 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 as 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 shall 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 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 harrass 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 upon us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the Benefits of Trial by Jury:

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

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 and 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 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; 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.

One final note: My source for this is a book published in 2002 by Fall River Press that combines the Declaration, the Articles Of Confederation, and the Constitution and all of its amendments in a single volume, with an introduction by the aforementioned Mr. Bernstein.  I am following all capitalization, spelling, and punctuation as it appeared in that volume.

***jn***

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11. Let Freedom Ring!

07/04/2011

To my fellow Americans who may be reading this, I hope you are having, or have had, a very happy Independence Day.  To anyone else who might be reading this, I trust that you enjoy your countries’ national days as much as we do ours.

It was 235 years ago that John Adams, later to become our second President, wrote to his wife Abigail as to how he thought the day should be commemorated in the future.  He said, “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

I definitely think we Americans took Adams’s musings to heart in celebrating Independence Day.  If we could bring him back, 185 years after his death, I wonder what he would think of how the country he helped found celebrates its founding.

[TRIVIA:  Today is the anniversary of the deaths of three American Presidents — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom died in 1826; and James Monroe, who died in 1831.  It is also the birthdate of one other President — Calvin Coolidge, who was born in 1872.]

Back in April, I wrote an interpretation of the Declaration Of Independence, partially as a way of better understanding it myself.  As I mentioned in that particular entry, I imagined it as if I were explaining it to a group of elementary school students.  Since I posted that entry, I have taken another look or two at the Declaration, and I have one more opinion about it:

It is an indictment.

The Continental Congress was sitting as a grand jury, and the Declaration Of Independence was the true bill that they returned.  In essence, they accused George III of tyranny, and the main section of the Declaration is a list of specific charges against him.

Once I reached this conclusion, I began another train of thought.  There are those who believe that Barack Obama is just as great a tyrant as George III was, if not greater.  If a Declaration Of Independence were being written today, what would be the specific charges of tyranny leveled against Obama?

***jn***


6. Simply Declaring

04/13/2011

Recently, I have been reading the Declaration Of Independence.  I am certain that I have read at least parts of it over the years, but I wanted to get a better feel for it.  I wanted to know for certain that I understood what I thought I understood.

I thought that the best way of knowing would be if I could put the Declaration into my own words, much like the explanations of the Pledge Of Allegiance that were the topic of a previous entry.  And so, I have written my own description of the Declaration Of Independence.

When I wrote this description, I envisioned it as a presentation to a group of students; probably elementary school students.  More than likely, they had heard of the Declaration, but had not yet studied it.  Here is how I would describe it to them:

“It is easier to understand the Declaration Of Independence when you realize that it can be broken down into three sections.  In the first section, the Continental Congress is explaining why this step is necessary:

“We, the United States Of America, are declaring our separation and independence from Great Britain.  In doing so, we feel it only just, right, and proper that we present our reasons and arguments for doing so to the rest of the world.  We have the following grievances against the present King of Great Britain:

“The second section is a list of those grievances, which the Continental Congress hoped would demonstrate how King George III had violated the rights of the colonists repeatedly.  Those charges and grievances, they felt, were proof that he was no longer fit to rule the colonies.

“The Continental Congress also mentioned that they had made appeals to the people of Great Britain, hoping that they might convince the British Parliament and the King to reverse his stand on the colonies.

“In the third and final section, the Continental Congress stated why they finally concluded that any connections with Great Britain must be broken:

“We have tried to resolve these grievances and differences many times, only to have those overtures rejected at every attempt.  We regret that we must do this, but as a last resort, we hereby declare that the United States are now free and independent, and that all ties to and with Great Britain are hereby dissolved.”

How well does this stand as an interpretation of the Declaration Of Independence?

***jn***