The 4th.  The Declaration.  Let’s Read It.

How does our Declaration of Independence speak to us today?

How does our Declaration of Independence speak to us today?

By
• Topics: Government, Law & Justice,

I reread the Declaration a few days ago and was surprised to note how many of the charges (or portions thereof) laid out therein are valid today but only because for the last 246 years we have recreated them ourselves against our own selves.  What person today would read this and not recognize its significance? “… plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”

So after the burgers, brats, beers and belches, hand out a copy of the Declaration to family and guests and begin the discussion.  If the discussion wanes, as a last resort check out the decade-old article in Related Links at the bottom of the page.

In 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 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 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 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 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 Brittish 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.

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About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Randy Petty

Jul 02, 2022

Southeast Portico, Jefferson Memorial:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

-Excerpted from a letter to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1816.

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 02, 2022

Randy,

Thanks.

I look at it as more than a reminder.  It is a call to action. 

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Randy Petty

Jul 02, 2022

We still have many of the problems they had in the 1770s.   Taxation without (proportional) representation and the tension between Federalism and states rights.  If this supreme court continues with it’s current direction we might see things like check points at state border crossings, people traveling to red states so they can drive home with a trunk full of weapons, toxics being dumped in rivers which then flow into another state (West Virginia v. EPA) in addition to the “interstate abortion travel” we’re about to see.

Congress is going to have to act quickly ( LOL ) to reinforce their delegation of authority to regulatory agencies.  Who wants to see Pelosi and McConnell creating rules about airliner engine inspections etc.?

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Carol Follett

Jul 03, 2022

If we could extract the essence of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution from the fruit of the times, and remove the impurities of racism, sexism, and classism, we would have the brew for a happy, healthy way of community self- governance. The all white, all male, mostly enslavers, all “gentleman,” making their fortunes by squatting on the land of Native Americans, incited a revolution fought by “foot soldiers” and women who sacrificed for the cause of liberty and hope of equality. We have been dragging the ball and chain of the embedded evils up this hill ever since. Why have we not been able to “fix” it with the amendments and lawmaking machinery within by the founders to accommodate change? Would it be because the very same imbalances still exist? 

 

I agree we need changes, Dick, but we may find the “everyperson” in this morality move would end up in a worse position than exists now. If we were to remove the old frame, the current power elite would construct the new one and the same evils will follow.

 

Polls show over and over that a majority of people are in favour of very reasonable things. They want to protect the planet from greenhouse gasses, they want equity, decent employment, sound housing, healthcare, and safety. Now, compare the wants to what we have. We have vastly increasing income inequality, insecure employment with few wage and safety protections, decent housing out of reach or consuming so much income, families do not have a way to save or use discretionary funds, a costly, convoluted healthcare system enriching pharmaceutical companies, CEOs, and stockholders, but leaving the rest of us scrambling to get coverage, and the traumatic stress we are feeling as a nation after repeated shootings and mass shootings, and after removing and criminalising a woman’s right over her body may attest to our feelings of safety.

 

I was glad to celebrate Juneteeth, but we have very far to go to achieve the “general welfare” and “tranquility” for which we long, and have long expected.

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 03, 2022

Carol,

You stated:

“I agree we need changes, Dick, but we may find the “everyperson” in this morality move would end up in a worse position than exists now. If we were to remove the old frame, the current power elite would construct the new one and the same evils will follow.”

So, it is the status quo ever onward? That “old frame” is very, very far from being solid. We are on the road to self-destruction. What could be “worse”?

 

 

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 03, 2022

The Chileans have moved to replace their constitution.  We can too.

Chileans Revolted Against Their Constitution. Americans Should Too.

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Carol Follett

Jul 03, 2022

You ask, “what can could be worse” than things are now, and you suggest we should follow Chile’s example of calling for a new constitutional convention. The fact that “Since 2014, the Convention of States Project and other conservative groups, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have helped persuade lawmakers in 15 states to pass resolutions that call for a new constitutional convention” is enough to worry me that it will not be in the best interests of those who will be most impacted by the decisions made there. ALEC is not a friend to “the people.” 

I would be interested in a new convention if it were composed of all of us, not the wealthy. The Occupy Movement was a movement towards positive change. Of course, that did not get far. 

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 04, 2022

Carol,

We do not have to let ALEC take over the process. 

 

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Carol Follett

Jul 04, 2022

Well, Dick, I would like to stop ALEC from taking over our hypothetical convention- I would like to stop their current hyjacking of our legislative processes- how could we do that? They have the money and the inside connections, and that equals power to exponential levels. We have…? A vote - not all of us- a voice- how far does it carry? I do not mean to stop trying, but I am having a difficult time imagining the way out of this box.

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Carol Follett

Jul 04, 2022

A little humour to lighten our load :Womenhttps://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/women-declare-themselves-corporations-to-force-supreme-court-to-grant-them-rights-as-people/amp”> Declare Themselves Corporations to Force Supreme Court to Grant Them Rights as People

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 04, 2022

 Carol,

Your link to the New Yorker does not work.  Here is the correct one.

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Carol Follett

Jul 04, 2022

Thank you for making the link  work.

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Dick Conoboy

Jul 04, 2022

Carol,

Borowitz satire was too good to let it slide!  But maybe he is on to something? What devious and delicious legal devices might be used to circumvent this decision of the SCOTUS?

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