Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Take a minute to read through this.
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 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 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.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

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

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

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

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

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

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

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

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

I hope you get to see some fireworks tonight with your neighbors.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

This is a classic example of Natural Law political philosophy,

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.

What is a "self-evident" truth? In the 19th century that would have to have been that "peculiar institution" aka slavery. And in the 20th century...anyone care to guess?

Indeed, everyone enjoy this day as we give thanks for this country and those with the foresight, insight and the wisdom to establish an extended Republic with Consent of the Governed.


July 04, 2006 10:52 AM  
Blogger JimK said...

Orin, I think a "self-evident truth" is a premise that is believed on faith. If it's self-evident it does not require inference to figure it out.

Importantly, even a self-evident truth requires interpersonal verification. It may be self-evident and not true, as a hallucination or delusion.

I'm pretty sure none of this has to do with slavery -- they list the self-evident truths in the same sentence -- that men were endowed with certain inalienable Rights, and some speculation as to what those Rights were, etc.


July 04, 2006 4:22 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

My sense of history is that Orin is correct in that slavery was considered a self-evident truth in the 18th century, but it was not one of those truths of which Jefferson was particularly proud, so it is not listed in the Declaration. I give them the credit for speaking their ideals, and counting on the fact that later generations would recognize that slavery was not a self-evident truth.

Of course, there are many other "self-evident truths" from those times -- that women were inferior and incapable of rational thought, that Jews were the spawn of the devil, that males and females came only in two pure forms, etc. A whole host of absurdities by today's standards.

The genius of the Founding generation is that they had the courage to speak out loudly their better truths, and provide us a commonwealth that allows and encourages change and adaptation, not some religious adherence to outmoded dogma. Some people these days seem to have forgotten that, in their fear and ignorance.

July 04, 2006 5:32 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day [Independence Day] forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them," - Thomas Jefferson, June 24, 1826, in the last significant letter he wrote (he died on July 4, 1826).

Michelle Turner, Retta and Wyatt might want to seriously consider those words.

July 04, 2006 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Tish said...

Interesting that Orin suggested the idea that slavery would have been a '"self evident" truth' in the 19th century.

Considering that The United States fought a devastating civil war over the issue in the middle of the 19th century, and that the supporters of slavery lost, I don't really think the point holds.

In the 18th century, when the Declaration of Independence was drafted, many people were questioning the legitimacy of the slave trade and of the institution itself. The original draft of the Declaration, which Jefferson wrote alone, opened with the phrase, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable; that all men are created equal and independent," and included this statement among the list of complaints against the king:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold; he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this excrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

The original manuscript is in the Library of Congress.

So young Tom, himself the son-in-law of the largest slave-holder in Virginia, blamed the king of Great Britian for forcing the American colonists to become a part of the slave trade. As you are all aware, this particular paragraph didn't make it out of committee. The final draft, edited by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, omitted this for reasons that were more political than ideological.

The political struggles over this issue, both in drafting the Declaration and the Constitution itself, as well as the personal struggles of some of the most outspoken proponents of liberty, show us that there has been no time in our history as a nation when we have not struggled with these questions of inherent equality.

The war we fought with ourselves as a nation in the 1860s mirrored the wars such men as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry fought with themselves over their own roles as slave owners. None of those men was able, in his own life, to make the personal sacrifice that manumission would cost him. Patrick Henry wrote to a Quaker friend, "Would anyone believe that I am Master of Slaves of my own purchase! I am drawn along by the inconvenience of living without them, I will not, I cannot justify it. I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable Evil." (Letter to Anthony Benezet, January 18, 1773.)

July 05, 2006 11:07 PM  

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