the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Declaration of Independence

Posted by Jeff Id on July 4, 2009

It’s good to remember where we’ve been so we have perspective on where we’re going.

Declaration of Independence

The complete text.

Original spelling and capitalization have been retained.

(Adopted by Congress on 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 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:

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

Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776


Happy Fourth of July.


17 Responses to “Declaration of Independence”

  1. AEGeneral said

    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.

    That line always gave me chills.

    Happy 4th, Jeff.

  2. timetochooseagain said

    I’m gonna start walking around with my pocket Declaration in my right back pocket and my pocket Constitution in the left. (Keeps my cheeks warm to boot)

  3. michel said

    Often thought it would be interesting to set a class the Declaration, with its resounding defence of separatism and self determination, to read alongside the Gettysburg address, with its terse declaration that imposing the will of the majority to force compliance is necessary to preserve government of the people by the people for the people.

    The difficult question to put to the founders, after explaining to them the circumstances of the Gettysburg address, and its iconic position in US history, would be: suppose it were not King George. Suppose that the UK were as democratic as you, with an equivalent franchise. Suppose in fact that you were basically one people in governmental terms. Well then, in this case, which would you go with? Would you say that you are entitled to separate, which might imply the South is also entitled? Or that the South is not entitled, which might imply and you are not either?

    Or perhaps you would say with the Jesuits that circumstances alter cases….

    Well, as in many areas of human life, no easy answers to these things.

  4. Squidly said

    Happy Independence Day To All!

    And please, this is an Independence Day celebration, not the 4th of July! The 4th of July is just a day… remember these things…

  5. timetochooseagain said

    3. Oh PUHLEEZE, how thick can you get? The situations are not in the least comparable and your characterization of the Gettysburg Address is appalling. Lincoln-who, by the way, idolized the founders-would have had a very good answer to your nonsense: The Founders broke away to end tyranny being imposed upon them. The South did so for the sake of preserving their ability to exercise tyrannical control over a minority.

  6. page48 said

    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

    So much to choose from, but I like this one best.

    Have a wonderful Fourth of July everyone.

  7. michel lecar said

    I’m neither thick, nor a defender of the South’s rather dreadful cause, and in no way an apologist for slavery. The question of secession, when it is right, when a nation tolerates it, on what grounds, and how it looks from different perspectives is a complicated and interesting one, and the history of the US in the two episodes of the Revolution and the Civil war casts a light on it which permits its exploration.

    The institutions which seceders act to defend are always unacceptable in the eyes of the nation as a whole. The rationale given by the seceders always veils these, and offers a collection of worthy goals.

    The difficult issue is, minority rights in majority rule environments, and balancing the two rights, the one of the right to secede, the other of the right to take decisions on a majority basis. The problem is, when does an area or group have the right to secede in the face of a majority decision it does not like? When should it simply accept it and acquiesce?

    We saw this come up acutely, in somewhat different form, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union. Scotland in the UK. The Basques. The Kurds.

    An interesting theme for discussion would be what a class thinks about these different cases, and why, and what it thinks the principal is. It could end up taking the view, which you seem to take, that secession is only right in a worthy cause. Maybe that is what comes out of the US example in these two cases. But it will have to have had a complicated debate in order to get to that view, and it will have to have done some real thinking about what is meant by worthy.

  8. timetochooseagain said

    I most certainly do not take the view that “secession is only right in a worthy cause” I take the view that resistance to tyranny is a justification, the perpetuation of tyranny is not. Outside of that, I say nothing. For instance, if a people seek independence only for its own sake, is that a “worthy cause”? I think not. Does that mean I think they should be allowed to independence? Well, actually, I really don’t care. If it is over control of natural resources? I don’t care. The distinct I make is between liberty and tyranny-nothing more and nothing less.

    Now there IS a problem with that, I will admit-it is very hard to get people to agree what is liberty and what is tyranny. But as for me-I may not be able to define it clearly, but I know it when I see it.

    Sorry for making bad assumptions and offending you, though.

  9. timetochooseagain said

    BTW, a great Lincoln qoute:

    “The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny.” ~Abraham Lincoln, Address in Baltimore, Maryland, April 18, 1864

  10. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Lincoln’s differencing the definition of liberty may have been necessary at that time, but what was intended by the forefathers was certainly less ambiguous with regards to limited government. Lincoln was never a proponent of limited government.

    The forefathers certainly had the horrible contradiction of slavery and the implied intentions of the Declaration and the Constitution that they handled, unfortunately, in a very political manner. While the Declaration has some very good ideas embodied in it, it was a declaration of war and intended to kindle some otherwise less than fervent support.

    What really bothers me is when politicians of today use these documents to promote their own mischief no matter how their promotions might contradict the original intentions of those documents. To be honest I would rather know where a person stands on the issues of freedom and liberty by their own definitions.

  11. timetochooseagain said

    10-You can’t possibly believe that “for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” is a valid definition of liberty? There seems to be a lot of confusion as to Lincoln’s philosophy of government. For instance, he had a far more restrictive view as to a President’s war powers during the Mexican-American war than most GOP these days would be able to swallow. However during his own Presidency he exercise vaster powers than even he believe he legally possessed. It is totally unfair to judge him on the basis of the civil war. To say he was “never” a proponent of limit government seems a stretch to me. But why propose as system which already exists? In his time, the US government was largely properly limited. The more important question is, was he an opponent of limited government, or a proponent of unlimited government? I think not.

  12. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) said

    and if obama has SS in the usa, does michigan have the right to secession?

    just asking.

  13. timetochooseagain said

    12 I suppose they could if they wanted to but I doubt they’d survive on their own.

    But isn’t Michigan in worse shape right now than most of the country?

  14. Kenneth Fritsch said

    10-You can’t possibly believe that “for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor.” is a valid definition of liberty?

    You completely misread my intent here. Lincoln is pointing to something rather easily understood when we talk about limited government whose primary, and some would say sole purpose, is to protect people against violence initiated by others. Lincoln was a rather typical Republican for his time who favored government trade restrictions to protect US businesses (primarily northern industrialists) and a large move by the government into infrastructure improvements at the federal level.

    It is totally unfair to judge him on the basis of the civil war.

    Well, of course, and we should not judge Obama because of the current economic crisis and the same for FDR’s New Deal and FDR putting Japanese-Americans into camps during WWII . It is always a crisis that puts into effect what was previously thought restricted by the limited government view and unfortunately either leaves the governments with that imposed power or merely rescinds what was done for some politician to point to in the future as a precedent for imposing government power in a “crisis”.

  15. timetochooseagain said

    There’s a major difference between Lincoln and FDR and Obama. Lincoln was always troubled by much of what he had to do. FDR was never unenthusiastic about the New Deal and I don’t think Obama would be unable to stomach what he is doing outside of a crisis either. They used crises as excuses. Lincoln never had such intentions-the crisis was thrust upon him. As for favoring tarriffs, well, nodbody’s perfect-and as for infrastructure, would that make Eisenhower a proponent of big government to?

  16. Kenneth Fritsch said

    TTCA, I suspect that I as a libertarian will view these differences differently than a Republican or Democrat would. It would take a major discussion of the proper role of government to do it justice and I do not see this thread aimed at that topic. I would only note that you appear to say that someone who uses government power and feels bad about is better than someone who does not. If that view became popular with the electorate I can imagine a lot of politicians claiming that they they feel really bad about imposing government controls and then do it with relish.

  17. timetochooseagain said

    Kenneth-I doubt we have very divergent views on the actual issues however: “I would only note that you appear to say that someone who uses government power and feels bad about is better than someone who does not.”

    I certainly understand why you don’t see it as a good excuse. But my point is not something to do with the politics of a particular moment, but how we retrospectively judge someone-I think that Lincoln did things he shouldn’t have, but I don’t think one should demonize him over it-precisely because I believe that it was not his intention to do anything permanently destructive to liberty. I don’t believe a fair retrospective on FDR could yield that conclusion. I think such an analysis would be similar with Obama (I admit I can’t know, but it sure looks that way).

    If Lincoln could have been President at a different time, things would have been very different. If FDR had been President at a different time, how differently would he have acted? I doubt he would act very different. Sure, crisis provides opportunities, but if they could fulfill their intentions in the way most ideal to them-the results would be nearly polar opposite (Of course, international trade would be freer under FDR, but inter and intrastate would I think be freer under Lincoln-so neither situation could be called ideal).

    So let me be clear-my issue is not with objecting to what Lincoln did but projecting those actions onto his character and ideology-he deserves better as a person not a politician.

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