Saturday, July 4, 2009

Annual Reading of the Declaration of Independence

I did it this morning.....did you?

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 bonds 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 to 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 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 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 legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to 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 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:

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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 in 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, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete 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 endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is 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 the 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.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

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

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


Doc Milnamo said...

I did read it. I wish my stupid local newspaper - Raleigh's News & Observer would.

Every year on July 4, they publish the...wait for it...first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the US otherwise known as the Bill of Rights. While I realize the connection (no independence then no constitution, and no amendments to said constutution) please publish the Declaration of Independence. It is "the reason for the season".

Roger Erwin said...

Does the News and Observer include the second amendment in that list.

Mudge said...

Thanks CW. Great idea for required reading on this day.

I wonder if those who seek to alter our form of government today find support, indeed charter, in this document or dismiss it out of hand as outdated and not applicable to our current existence. My guess is a little of both. And I suspect that replacing "the present King of Great Britain" with "George W. Bush", replacing all the "facts...submitted to a candid world" with "facts" such as "taking the country and its citizenry into an illegal invasion of another sovereign nation on false pretenses", "securing the wealth of the nation's elite at the expense of the poorest and most needy citizens", "enacting policies that ensure continued ravaging of our nation's pristine areas and irreplaceable natural resources", etc etc and, finally, eliminating references to "God", "their Creator", "the Supreme Judge of the world" and "Divine Providence" and I think you would have a document into which the "changers" could really sink their teeth.

But would they be willing to die for it as countless fellow citizens have done for it (or more accurately for its decendant document, the Constitution) for over two centuries since its signing? Although we are, fortunately, still a considerable margin away from this point, I can't see myself putting my life on the line to salvage a system that turns what I have experienced for nearly 1/4th of this nation's lifespan into something more closely resembling that from which the founders sought to unshackle themselves. I trust these great men who by courage, sacrifice and a faithful believe that man's rights come from a Source far superior to any and all men, crafted a form of government to endure any threat from men that will insulate us from the kinds of regression to tyranny of which I write.

Doc Milnamo said...

Roger, yes they do. And I took full advantage of this right by going out to the range yesterday with my wife. She hasn't fired so much as a BB gun in all her 52 years and yesterday fired a .22 bolt-action rifle and a Ruger .22 pistol (owned by the RSO). She now wants her own rifle as she gets antsy waiting her turn!

Ghost of Halloween Past said...

Powerful, I last read this document far too long ago. Thanks for reminding us. Reading this now I'm again amazed at what powerful agents of change our leaders were. Despite the consensus of signers, this reads as a both reasoned and impassioned -- not exactly a hallmark of committee-think.

I had remind the wee one of her 'forefather' and namesake among them, which seems somewhat wonderfully appropriate given her Chinese ethnicity and knowing that immigration policy was a primary cause for this declaration).

Yes, I'll bite (as CW expects of me): I can't help but wonder if we, at times, grow ever more closer to the destructive form of govt from which our liberal forefathers unshackled us. But I wouldn't just restrict that to GWB, as Mudge mentions as an example: I think there have been and are eerie similarities across both side of the aisle. This document and this day are such great reminders of what government is there to do: to secure the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Mudge said...

Doc - A very dangerous mixture: teaching your wife to shoot then announcing her age to the entire planet. I'd lay low for a few weeks.

Doc Milnamo said...

Mudge...thanks for the reality check. Yes I fat-fingered that one. She is the same age Jack Benny was - 39!

Anonymous said...

I was in Philly last month with a pack of 12yo's and had a chance to re read it for the first time in quite a while. I should read it more often.

Dan said...

An excerpt from a speech given by Maj Gen Pete Vangjel:

What happened to the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence? Just how tough was it for them after they had signed?

Five were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured.

Nine fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists.

Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well-educated.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of eight of those who signed.

At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over his home. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire on his house. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives.
His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Two others suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not aggressive rabble-rousers. They were soft-spoken men of means and education.
They had security, but they valued liberty more.

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