Happy Independence Day

nick
Mar 23, 2010

 

Every 4th of July, I like to reread The Declaration of Independence (what can I say, I'm a history geek), so I've reproduced it below, in case you haven't read it for at least a year either.

It's always good, of course, to remind yourself of the principles for which we stand, and we all remember the self-evident truths listed in the second paragraph. But it's also interesting to see what specific abuses the colonists were objecting to. There's the familiar "For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent," and the "He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures."

Some of these grievances refer to serious problems. The standing armies issue, for example. The ratio of soldiers to citizens in America in 1775 was higher than it was in Nazi Germany.

But other grievances are a little more surprising. The one about taxes for example. The tax burden in the colonies was a tiny fraction of what it was in England -- 3 percent, if memory serves. And the standard of living in what would become the United States was higher than in any country in Europe.

The Declaration itself states, "mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." 3 percent of the tax burden seems hardly worth the fight.

But, Jefferson wrote, the "long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them [mankind] under absolute Despotism."

The taxes were not the problem. The problem was taxes -- of any size -- being levied without the consent of the people through their elected legislature. There was a principle at stake, about the colonists right to choose their own fate -- a right they had enjoyed, through the mother country's neglect, for a century and a half.

The revolutionaries sought to preserve the God-given rights of each individual. It wasn't perfect, of course. In fact, there were deplorable failings. But reading the Declaration, it's clear that they weren't going for perfect.

And that's why it worked. If you look at the grand sweep of history, most of the time, revolutions are a bad idea -- for everyone. The American Revolution was different. It wasn't an ideological revolution, it was merely a principled one. They weren't seeking to create a utopia, they were seeking to keep the evil in the world to a minimum.

And now, without further ado:

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.

The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:

Column 1

Georgia:

   Button Gwinnett

   Lyman Hall

   George Walton

Column 2

North Carolina:

   William Hooper

   Joseph Hewes

   John Penn

South Carolina:

   Edward Rutledge

   Thomas Heyward, Jr.

   Thomas Lynch, Jr.

   Arthur Middleton

Column 3

Massachusetts:

John Hancock

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

Column 4

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

Column 5

New York:

   William Floyd

   Philip Livingston

   Francis Lewis

   Lewis Morris

New Jersey:

   Richard Stockton

   John Witherspoon

   Francis Hopkinson

   John Hart

   Abraham Clark

Column 6

New Hampshire:

   Josiah Bartlett

   William Whipple

Massachusetts:

   Samuel Adams

   John Adams

   Robert Treat Paine

   Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:

   Stephen Hopkins

   William Ellery

Connecticut:

   Roger Sherman

   Samuel Huntington

   William Williams

   Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:

   Matthew Thornton

Comments

Anonymous

You and Michele should team up since the two of you can't seem to come up with anything original. All the two of you do is skate on someone elses work. How pathetic you as a pair really are...

Anonymous

And a Happy Independence Day back at ya Mr. White.

The political sentiment of the citizenry has not changed all that much in 232 yrs.

I’ve often found the number breakdowns always interesting:

Approximately one-third of the colonists wanted independence.

Another one-third of them were for continued British sovereignty.

And approximately one-third just wanted to be left along in order to carry on their personal pursuits.

However, I must agree with ‘HN’ that like, Ms. Pletcher does like, ya know, come off like, a bit brain dead like, ya know?

Anonymous

You, like you know, come off as Brain Dead, no like, you know.

Anonymous

RE SOUP QUEUE: Glad I could like, aah, write in your, aah, usual vocabulary, so you could, aah, like understand it, ya know?

Anonymous

The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"

........"But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!..............................."

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

.........."Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America.is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just................."

..........."What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour............"

The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950 "

Anonymous

The British outlawed the slave trade in 1807. They also abandoned the institution of slavery without the necessity of a bloody Civil War, which cost hundreds of thousands of lives.

Perhaps in retrospect independence had its shortcomings. Canada and Australia appear to be prosperous.

Anonymous

In 1776, approximately one-third of the population desired independence; approximately one-third wanted to remain under British sovereignty and the remaining one-third were ambivalent and wanted to be left alone.

Not that much has changed in 232 years. Typically, those who call themselves independents tend to determine the outcome of national elections.

Anonymous

The Declaration of Independence was a rejection of collectivism of all types and an embrace of individualism. Americans have rejected the Declaration and have embraced collectivism inherent in our all powerful state. We are losing our liberty on all fronts and will deserve that poverty and blood that will result.

Anonymous

liberty: Quite true.

Very simply, read the 1932 party platform of the Socialist Labor Party of America:

http://www.slp.org/pdf/platforms...

How is this different from Democratic Party ideals in 2008?

Why was collectivism largely rejected by voters in 1932, and then accepted by multitudes as dogma seventy-six years later?

What purpose did The Cold War serve? The Communists are back, and they are Americans.

Anonymous

Hey Nick - lame column as always - way to copy and paste.

BTW - Saw you and your wife at the ribbon cutting Sunday, could your wife had worn a lower-cut dress? For real, tell your wife this is Ohio, not Calfornia!

Anonymous

Hey Nick, low cut dress too much for ya. ya like the boys huh?