|The first step toward freedom and independence|
I've read the Declaration of Independence many times, to include a quick run through of the original at the National Archives. One of the more moving places I've read it was at Thomas Jefferson's grave at Monticello. I had to congratulate him on a well written document. I believe it to be one of the most courageous and moving documents written by man.
I am not a Constitutional Lawyer nor a Historian, although I have studied my fair share of History. I'm not particularly gifted as a writer or linguist, but the following is what I believe the words, clauses, sentences and paragraphs in the document mean.
I welcome your comments.
When in the Course of human events,
--Human interactions has it's ebbs and flows, but sometimes those interactions take a sustained path
it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,
--sometimes the flow of those interactions takes such a negative aspect that a group of people no longer want to be governed by the other group of people
and to assume among the powers of the earth,
-- and want to join with other governments
the separate and equal station
--as a separate government with equal stature to other governments
to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them,
-- because the nature of man and our understanding of God's laws entitle us to this decision
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
--so that other peoples and governments understand why we take these actions, we're going to explain them
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
--Probably the most powerful statement ever written about governance and the way to govern, IMHO. BTW, my belief is that the word "Men", was a very intelligent noun inserted by Mr. Jefferson. People that believed it meant only status quo, i.e. males, could not disagree. People that believed that it meant all humans would have reason for hope.
A great man, a man with faults, foibles and mistakes, yet still a great man.
--"Endowed by their Creator". it wasn't any human that gives these rights to us, and who therefore could take them away. Rather they were "Endowed" (i.e. to provide with a permanent fund or source, the operative word being permanent) and therefore could not be taken away. "Unalienable", cannot be alienated (taken away). So basically in two separate clauses, Mr. Jefferson says that Life, Liberty and the pursuit (not guarantee) of happiness if infringed, restricted or reduced by any government provides grounds for dissolving relations with that government. My favorite paragraph in the document.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
-- "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men...", preserving Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is the sole reason for Government.
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
-- Another powerful clause. My Lord, I do love that statement. Governments ONLY get their powers as long as the people consent to be governed by them. Doesn't matter if it's the USA or the USSR, the government only has power when the people consent to that power. When consensus ends, so does the Government. In recent history, one needs look no further back than the 80's for examples of that.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,
--When the Government no longer serves to protect the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, the people have the Right (notice Mr. Jefferson capitalized the word to indicate it is a God given right, again not to be taken away by any human. Additionally that Right allows changing the structure of the government by modification or dissolution.
and to institute new Government,
-- or creating a 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.
--restructuring that new government in a manner that will best guarantee the preservation of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Prudence,indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;
--Changing or abolishing a government is a serious endeavor and should be entered into only with serious consideration of the outcomes and repercussions.
and accordingly all experience hath shewn,
--Therefore a study of history shows
that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable,than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
--Mankind has historically stayed with their existing form of government past the point where that government should have been replaced. All that having been said, even though they may not have abolished the government in the past, they have not given up the right to abolish that government.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism,
--After a sustained period of similar government abuses of power enacted solely to advance the power of the government at the expense of the governed, and which seek to deprive the populace of their freedoms and God given Rights.
it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government,
--Another powerful clause. It is not only their right to dissolve that government, it is their DUTY!
and to provide new Guards for their future security.
--Create a new government that will govern in such a manner as to protect the Right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
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.
--Everything described above has been inflicted on the Colonies and now we want to list the specifics of our treatment and why we are dissolving our ties with the King of Great Britain. I found a a lot of similarities in the list in the Declaration to actions being taken today, I'll leave them to the readers to compare, contrast, and append.
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 offencesFor 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.
--This has been going on for quite some time, we have been playing by the rules and continuously had those rules changed on us.
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.
--"I've got a pen and phone and I'm not afraid to use them". Need I say more?
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 would prefer this dissolution be conducted peacefully, but understand it most likely will result in war.
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.
--As the elected Representatives of this people, we are asserting our God given rights and performing our duty to form a government that will secure those rights. By doing so, we sever our governmental relation with Great Britain and as a Free Nation will conduct the affairs of government independent of any other sovereign authority.
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.
--With a belief in the protection of God, we understand this action may result in the loss of our Lives and Property (in many cases it did), but our honor as free beings requires it.