Thursday, July 4, 2013

When In the Course of Human Events...

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
   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
   John Hancock
   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

Column 4
   Robert Morris
   Benjamin Rush
   Benjamin Franklin
   John Morton
   George Clymer
   James Smith
   George Taylor
   James Wilson
   George Ross
   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
   Samuel Adams
   John Adams
   Robert Treat Paine
   Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
   Stephen Hopkins
   William Ellery
   Roger Sherman
   Samuel Huntington
   William Williams
   Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
   Matthew Thornton

Copied from here.


  1. My family had a paper mill on Hagy's Ford Road in Philadelphia and it was long rumored that this document was written on our paper, "The Declaration of Independence bares the Hagy watermark!" Was proudly proclaimed by family members for years.

    Then after someone did some research it turns out many of the copies which were handed out to all were on our paper...the actual document...probably not.

    Why do people research stuff and ruin a perfectly good story?

    1. Seems to me Joe that the "probably not" portion of the research doesn't rule out the family paper mill.

      It's a great story to have in the family.

  2. GS has a relative among the signers, John Hart.

    It really took a lot of intestinal fortitude to put their names on the Declaration of Independence.

    1. I have a somewhat distant relation as a signer, Samuel Huntington of Connecticut.

      And you're right about the fortitude, John Hancock made a point of signing large enough so that King George the Third would have no trouble reading it!

  3. A beautiful piece of literature. As I've opined elsewhere, I wish today's federal government officials would put aside some time to read it (and then, maybe, take it to heart.)

    1. It is a beautiful thing. And I echo your wish that today's so-called "leaders" would at least glance at it from time to time. And yes, take it to heart.

  4. The document is a masterpiece in so many ways. One of the things that stands out... for me... is the beautiful penmanship of the signers, in that you can actually READ their names. These days illegible signatures seem to be the norm and I don't know how or when that happened. The current phenomenon is something I'm NOT in favor of.

    1. These were men who believed in something. Who stood for something. They wanted George III to know who was standing up to him. My favorite line from the document:

      "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

      Honor is something that is also in short supply these days.

  5. The depth of aggravation the Colonists is very well expressed. It certainly took, as IT said, a lot of intestinal fortitude to put down on paper their intentions. Comparing to today, it would be impossible to get 56 politicians to agree on such an impactful (is that a word?) piece of legislation...and then to sign it and publicly back it? There is no one in DC presently who has the courage of their convictions like these 56 men! Have we all become too tolerant?

    1. It is a superb document. Of course, those men weren't career politicians like the clowns we have now. They were men who had a stake in the success of the Revolution. Men. Not the trash we have now.

  6. I translate old Civil War letters to modern. I scan the letters and blow them up to read them because they are so faded (some are in pencil). Most of the time the flow is consistent and easy to follow but sometimes there is a blot or crosshatch or something I cannot recognize at all. I literally cannot read a word or two. I think it sad that probably fewer than 1 in 4 Americans today could read the Declaration in the original and yet it is beautifully written and nary a blot. Tonight's letter was ended with the words that he had to close now since his candle was burning out. Imagine that. Writing so beautifully by the light of a candle and I can't write elegantly to this day despite the nuns and various and sundry torturers.
    I was so disappointed with the National Archives. The documents are there for any to see but it is just about impossible to read them since they keep the lights very low to avoid further damage to the ink and paper.

    I would like to see the next great document in their vein. I don't know what it would be but surely someone will come along with an elegant proposition that can be committed to a single page and signed by men who mean what they signed.

    1. My brother has a number of letters from our great great uncle Pliny who was in a NH regiment during the war. Sometimes making out what Uncle had to say can be difficult. But worth the effort.

      That next great document will no doubt be laser-printed on high quality paper. If it gets printed at all.


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