The declaration of independence

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Content: 12 The Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson z
BACKGROUND INFORMATION · This reading is one of the most important documents in American history. It explains and justifies the separation of the United States from the government of the king of England. · One important theme to be found in the declaration of independence is an orientation of the new country in religious and philosophical terms. human beings have inalienable rights, one learns, just as the secular rationalists of the Enlightenment had maintained. However, in the understanding of the declaration, human beings enjoy these rights only because the Creator has bestowed them; this perspective was compatible with a religious view of the world. · A second important theme is an extended discussion of the issues that inspired American opposition to numerous policies and actions of the government of King George III. More important than the specific incident to which each grievance refers is the underlying principle being violated. King George was the real rebel, claimed the declaration, because he had violated his own British laws in his treatment of the Americans. Taken as a whole, the grievances thus define the attitude of the new United States toward the older body of British law and governmental tradition. That attitude was one of profound respect. The new country would borrow much of its legal and governmental structure from the old.
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
Source: The Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, July 4, 1776. 85
Copyright 2006 Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
86 z PART 2 THE LEGACY 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 can did 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 dissolu-
tions, 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 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
Copyright 2006 Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
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 out 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
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE е 87 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.
Copyright 2006 Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company
88 z PART 2 THE LEGACY Thinking and Writing Assignment: 15 points Complete the notes and analysis assignment given below and post it at the discussion forum called FORUM 12. Complete the critique assignment below and post it as a reply to one of your colleagues' entries at FORUM 12. Notes The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you have understood the Reading Assignment. Please answer each of the questions below with a clearly written sentence or sentences. 1. What are "unalienable rights" and why should they have priority in a country? 2. What did Jefferson and the Continental Congress expect to happen as a result of the prom- ulgation of the Declaration of Independence? What does Jefferson include in the text that shows they expected an angry response? 3. What is the structure of the Declaration of Independence? What do each of the two paragraphs do? Can the text be divided into smaller sections, with each section having a special purpose? 4. What strong language does Jefferson use? Do you think that he is always justified in using such language? How does he justify it? 5. What are the stated reasons for declaring independence? Might there be any other reasons that are left unsaid? 6. What is the claim and what are the points supporting that claim? Analysis The purpose of the exercise below is to give you opportunity to apply the insights gained from the reading assignment through critical analysis. Please answer each of the questions below with a clearly written statement or essay. Think carefully, and express yourself with precision. 1. Describe (from your point of view) the typical American Opinion of monarchy. What does this opinion share with the ideas stated in the Declaration of Independence? 2. Analyze the rhetoric of the Declaration of Independence. What makes this a powerful document? Include in your analysis specific examples from the text of effective rhetoric, and explain why these examples are effective. 3. Research the writing of the Declaration of Independence. How many drafts did Jefferson write? What kind of help did he receive? How was the Declaration received by the Continental Congress? Why was Jefferson chosen to write it? Critique 1. READ the submissions of your colleagues carefully. 2. THINK about what they are saying. 3. FIND at least one idea you do NOT agree with. 4. WRITE a clear response to that submission, in which you explain politely what you disagree with and why. 5. POST your statement as a REPLY to the submission to which it responds. Copyright 2006 Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company

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