United States Declaration of Independence/Talk

< United States Declaration of Independence

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

I found the following on Declaration of Independence, which I redirected to declaration of independence, which I made a pointer page (including a pointer to United States Declaration of Independence. Remember, this isn't an encyclopedia for Americans only.


The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies 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 [George III] 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 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 harass 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 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 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 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.

The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:

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


(text from Indiana University School of Law)


www.nara.gove (full link in article) has a jpeg scan of the document. Should we add the image or just leave it as a link to the National Archive's page?

---

You know, the least one could have done in moving this from around would be to preserve the wikification of the state names in the signature section. It's quite demoralizing to take the time to wikify a section of content, only to see it undone by such inattention. I did it once, I'm not interested in doing it again.

As for "United States" vs "American", see United_States_Civil_War/Previous for an opposing view regarding nomenclature and common usage.

On my view, the arguments on that page are not relevant here. "American Civil War" is a well-established name for a historical event. There is no corresponding common name for the Declaration of Independence among Americans other than just that, "Declaration of Independence." That is in fact how it's usually cited in most American encyclopedias, but since Wikipedia is a thoroughly international encyclopedia, we have to avoid using what has become a type term to describe only one instance of the type. So we can qualify it either as "United States D of I" or "American D of I"--doesn't much matter. If it doesn't matter, we might as well prefer the former. --LMS

I was the one who moved the article. If you're the person who wikified the text, you should have looked around to see whether the D. of I. had already been uploaded. I'm not about to do work that you should have done, in checking your version against the one that had already been uploaded. Please do that yourself. --LMS


Am I the only person which detects anti-French xenophobia in the U.S. Declaration of Independence? Note the following complaint:

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:

The province in question was Quebec. Most of the people in Quebec were French settlers, and they didn't want to live under English law, they wanted to live under French law. Despite English-speaking delusions to the contrary, the French legal system is just as good as the English legal system. But those xenophobic American "Founding Fathers" (a very patriarchial term, I might add) viewed an attempt to secure the rights of Quebecois as a tyrannical misdeed of the British government. Shame! (The American Revolution was a big mistake -- the U.S. should surrend to Her Majesty now, and beg her for forgiveness... :-) -- SJK


The French legal system now might be ok by most standards, but at the time of US independence, it was very different and probably quite unpleasant to live under. Remember that this was before the French Revolution, and that the French were sufficiently unimpressed with that old legal system that they instituted a complete rewrite from scratch as soon as things settled down a bit after the revolution. I doubt if many Quebecois wanted to live under French law except maybe a few of the very rich and powerful, who could use it to keep the lower classes in a state of near slavery.


I'd like to see some evidence for that claim. Sure, 20th century French law != 18th century French law, but 20th century English (or U.S.) law != 18th century English law either. The French did not institute a "complete rewrite from scratch" after the Revolution; they reformed, codified and purified it. French and English law represent two very different legal systems, but the difference between them is not primarily one of substantive rules or protections, but rather of legal terminology, culture and processes of legal thought.

Furthermore, the Quebecois probably had a purer form of the French legal system anyway, since they would have had more pure Roman law, without the medieveal accretions of local customary law (it was these accretions which the reform got rid of.)

Even if there were substantive flaws in Quebec laws, there is nothing wrong with the French legal system per se, anymore than there is something wrong the French language per se. Whatever they were, the substantive flaws could be remedy (and have been remedied). Wholesale replacement of French law with English law was not necessary. The US "Founding Fathers" were just being xenophobic. -- SJK


I think you'll find that pre-revolutionary French law was based on the law code of the Salic Franks (and on various late medievel misunderstandings of said code), not on Roman law. I expect that, given the medievel and renaisance esteem for all things classical, a few ideas from Roman law probably crept in, but that wasn't the basis of it. The Napoleonic rewrite was mostly based on Roman law.

There were people involved in the US Declaration of Independence who genuinely believed in freedoms theoretically granted (but rarely actually available) under traditional English law. At the time very few other legal codes had any concept of these freedoms, and the French one certainly didn't.

There were also people involved in the declaration for other less lofty reasons, for instance it appears quite a few of the independence supporters were pirates and slave traders who were likely to be hanged for their crimes if independence failed.

Most of the high-sounding documents that are remembered from this time are the work of the first group, though if you look closely in the original constitution you can see the influence of the others here and there.

There is one little inconsistency that can be seen, however. The laws of Louisiana, which joined the USA (when?, 1806?, certainly when some of the D of I people were still alive) are still based on French law even today, though i think it might be the Code Napoleon rather than the older version.