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 for 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 shown, 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 of 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 meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration 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 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 neighboring 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 Government:
For suspending our own Legislature, 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, desolution 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 endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of war-fare, 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 attention 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.
Note that the Declaration actually has four parts:
The first paragraph is a preamble, which explains the reasons for the second and third parts.
The second part, comprised of the second and third paragraphs, explains the theory of Government, and of man's relation thereto, on which the Fathers were operating. Note that it does not establish anything--although it is frequently quoted, out of context, by those with suspect agendas trying to prove a point. It only recognizes universal principles.
The third part, by far the longest part of the document, is a long recital of the specific grievances that the Fathers believed justified their separation from the British Government. Note that many of those grievances suggest an intrusive Government in London, probably far less intrusive than that which the modern Left would like to establish and continue in Washington, today; that some of the complaints against the King were for allowing the Parliament to impose acts of pretended legislation; and that there is not one suggestion in the entire document that would support the idea of a "one man, one vote" Democracy, a redistribution of wealth, or any notion of tearing down achievers to appease the jealousy of failures.
There is also this statement: 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. Clearly, the Fathers were rebelling against too much Governmental intrusion, not the Monarchical form. There would have been no revolt against a Prince who respected the Settlers' rights to be let alone; none against a Prince who accorded them the same rights that the English Barons had achieved in an earlier compact under Magna Carta, 561 years before.
The final paragraph is the actual Declaration--the legal part of the document--the part that actually changed things! It is that paragraph by which each of the thirteen original States assumed its independence. (For the British recognition of the individual sovereignty of those States', see the link below to the Treaty Of Paris.)
Take the time to read the Declaration over a second time, to more clearly understand something of the perspective of the Founding Fathers. These were not men who sought an egalitarian society; nor an all powerful Government which would seek to solve problems of normal human interaction. These were reverent men, humble yet confident, who over & over again, even in this short document, evince their awed reference and trust in their Creator; men opposing with manly dedication the pretended authority of intrusive Government, while they define and affirm the legal basis for State Sovereignty.
Many of those who signed the Declaration had to make terrible sacrifices in the bloody revolution, which vindicated its legality. By spreading understanding of what necessitated those sacrifices, and those of many of the patriots who sustained them, we may yet have a chance to stop the present rush back towards tyranny, without having to go through the whole bloody process all over again! It may be a "long shot," but surely worth the effort.
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No American journalist in the 20th Century wrote with greater clarity, none with more compelling rhetoric or cadence, than James Jackson Kilpatrick, Editor of the Richmond (Virginia) News Leader, in the 1950s. In 1957, he wrote The Sovereign States to challenge increasing Federal encroachment into State & local affairs. The book was not only philosophically & Constitutionally sound; it exhibited, in sparkling prose, some of the best American Conservative writing of the 20th Century. Now, sixty years later, it is available on line:
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