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The U.S. Declaration of Independence The U.S. Declaration of Independence
by The Ovi Team
2020-07-04 07:56:47
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us_400Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation's most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson's most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in "self-evident truths" and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country. We invite you to read a transcription of the complete text of the Declaration (www.archives.gov)

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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


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Paparella2007-07-04 12:27:14
It is intriguing that while the truths enunciated by the deist Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence are declared “self-evident” to human reason, they are nevertheless anchored and legitimized by a higher power mentioned no less than four times under different attributes, as Nature’s God, Creator, Supreme Judge, divine Providence.

Paparella2007-07-04 18:34:42

As a follow-up to the above, see the intriguing article in today's Newropeans (link above) by Mosha Loyak titled "From Transatlantic to EU-US Relations" which manages to wholly "misremember" the role of the US in the salvaging of European Western culture as we know it by its contribution to the defeat of Nazism, and even has George Wahsington born in Britain. Self-evident truths?

Jack2007-07-04 20:21:25
I really appreciate your article on Independence Day. Thank you. Even the ancient Greeks and some hints within the Roman Empire (i.e. Senate) felt that freedom and democracy are "self-evident" rights for humans. Even though Jefferson may have been a deist (incidentally, there really are no primary sources or first-hand, historical evidences to support this), at the founding of the nation, 99.8% of the nation called themselves either Christian[99%], Catholic or Jewish. By the capitalization of the names Creator, Nature's God, Supreme Judge, etc...it is also evident that they believed in God.

Paparella2007-07-04 22:16:11
Jim Walker in an article regarding a document by Adams proclaiming the newly born US governement as secular writes this: "A few Christian fundamentalists attempt to convince us to return to the Christianity of early America, yet according to the historian, Robert T. Handy, "No more than 10 percent-- probably less-- of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations." The Founding Fathers, also, rarely practiced Christian orthodoxy. Although they supported the free exercise of any religion, they understood the dangers of religion. Most of them believed in deism and attended Freemasonry lodges. According to John J. Robinson, "Freemasonry had been a powerful force for religious freedom." Freemasons took seriously the principle that men should worship according to their own conscious. Masonry welcomed anyone from any religion or non-religion, as long as they believed in a Supreme Being. Washington, Franklin, Hancock, Hamilton, Lafayette, and many others accepted Freemasonry."

Moreover, Nature's God is definitely a Deist's affirmation. A Catholic is also a Christian. I there is an ambiguity is derives from Jefferson's use of the "divine Providence" which implies a caring and even personal God.

Jack2007-07-04 22:30:31
Of historical note on Mr. Jefferson, our nation's third president, was that he was a student of Scripture who attended church regularly, and was an active member of the Anglican Church, where he served on his local vestry. He was married in church, sent his children and a nephew to a Christian school, and gave his money to support many different congregations and Christian causes. Also, “nine documents Jefferson wrote in 1776“, are "very orthodox statements about the inspiration of Scripture and Jesus as the Christ," according to Mark Beliles, a Providence Foundation scholar and author of an enlightening essay on Jefferson's religious life.

Incidentally, the Jefferson Bible, that miracles-free version of the Scriptures, does not exist. That, too, is a myth. It is not a Bible, but an abridgement of the Gospels created by Jefferson in 1804 for the benefit of the Indians. Jefferson's "Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted From the New Testament for the Use of the Indians" was a tool to evangelize and educate American Indians. There is no evidence that it was an expression of his skepticism. My main point was that a right to autonomy, or self-determination, is "self-evident" to most people, whether expressed or not [or not allowed to, whichever the case may be]. ISn't that what this article above is about?

Seth2007-07-05 01:06:41
I would rather believe Primary Sources, which are things written by Jefferson himself, than Secondary Sources, which is something written by an author about him [i.e. Mr. Walker or Mr. Handy's writings]. If he was indeed a deist, then his own writings betray have betrayed his beliefs.

Federal archives (.gov) are resplendent with such original writings.

Ferris2007-07-05 02:32:01
To anyone who has lived under Communism, Socialism, Totalitarianism, Dictatorships, etc. it is obvious or self-evident to them that the right to make choices and have a say in society and government should be the fair and just thing to do. It is just as self-evident that the reverse is true, that to restrict human choices and freedom is to put the interests of the many into the hands of the few($$$!) Many would and have been first in line to a nation that has Freedom as it's most precious commodity...where human majorities rule for human majorities benevolence, albeight not perfectly, but it's th e best we have (Benjamim Franklin).

Paparella2007-07-05 11:31:54

Good point Seth. Here is one such primary source:
Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

Paparella2007-07-05 11:47:09
Indeed Ferris, it must have been evident to most slaves in ancient Greece and Rome that they ought to be free. Whether or not it was also evident to a Plato or an Aristotle or a Cicero who never spoke out against slavery, is another story. I suppose the same can be said about the American founding fathers who. for all the enlightenment derived from Locke , do not mention slavery once neither in the Declaration of Indipendence nor in the Constitution. That glaring omission came to head some seventy years later with the civil war.

Paparella2007-07-05 12:49:47
We are in full agreement that Jefferson believed in God since he mentions Her four times in The Declaration of Independence. Belief in a creator God and a supreme Judge God accrues to both Christians, Jews, Moslems (the three Abrahamic religions), Unitarians and deists who believe in the God of Nature (the very first designation mentioned in the Declaration of Independence). As mentioned, the last designation, that of “divine Providence” makes it problematic to derive from the document whether or not Jefferson was a deist, since deists do not believe in a personal God who guides Man’s destiny without violating man’s freedom.

In regard to “self-evident” truths commented upon by the Ovi team, the point seems to have been misunderstood. It was this: that the founding fathers could not have been so confident that all truths were “self-evident” to everybody, to every group, to every polity, at all times and all places (after all neither Plato nor Cicero saw slavery as self-evidently wrong, and they themselves did not see it as wrong, despite their reading of Locke) and therefore to guarantee them absolutely, they wisely decided to anchor those truths not in the mere human power of the State, not in the cleverness of man, but in a God who is an impartial Supreme Judge who does not rationalize what ought never be rationalized, and who respects reason in Herself and expects human beings (to whom he gave reason) to do likewise. Which is to say, without God guaranteeing those “self-evident” truths, there is no absolute guarantee that inalienable rights will be guaranteed either even by a powerful state. As it turned out, inalienable rights were sanctimoniously placed in the constitution, on paper and in theory, but were violated in the breach when it came to African-Americans to whom those rights also accrued.

Seth2007-07-05 18:09:49
Paparella, How well put when you stated "that without God guaranteeing those “self-evident” truths, there is no absolute guarantee that inalienable rights will be guaranteed either even by a powerful state". You are exactly right.

Paparella2007-07-05 23:55:13
Hi Seth, for an elaboration on this very point of the EU Constitution attempting to guarantee inalienable rights without any reference to a higer being in its preamble (as 90% of the modern world constitutions do), even ignoring the Christian heritage of Europe, you may wish to pay particular attention to the very next article which I have submittd to Ovi magazine. It is titled "Europa as the Return of the Gods."

Paparella2007-07-06 02:37:41
On Jefferson's Bible (which Jack brought up)here are two different viewpoints by two scholars of religioust studies) one present Dean of the Yale Graduate School and the other an ex Dean of the same.

[Interviewer:] Let's go through some of [the Founding Fathers]... Thomas Jefferson?

[Jon Butler:] Well, Jefferson's interesting because recently evangelicals, some evangelicals, have tried to make Jefferson out as an evangelical. Jefferson actually was deeply interested in the question of religion and morals and it's why Jefferson, particularly in his later years, developed a notebook of Jesus' sayings that he found morally and ethically interesting. It's now long since been published and is sometimes called, "The Jefferson Bible." But Jefferson had real trouble with the Divinity of Christ and he had real trouble with the description of various events mentioned in both the New and the Old Testament so that he was an enlightened skeptic who was profoundly interested in the figure of Christ as a human being and as an ethical teacher. But he was not religious in any modern meaning of that word or any eighteenth century meaning of that word. He wasn't a regular church goer and he never affiliated himself with a religious denomination--unlike Washington who actually did. He was an Episcopalian. Jefferson, however, was interested in morals and ethics and thought that morals and ethics were important but that's different than saying religion is important because morals and ethics can come from many sources other than religion and Jefferson knew that and understood that. [continued on nest comment]

Paparella2007-07-06 02:39:10
There has certainly never been a shortage of boldness in the history of biblical scholarship during the past two centuries, but for sheer audacity Thomas Jefferson's two redactions of the Gospels stand out even in that company. It is still a bit overwhelming to contemplate the sangfroid exhibited by the third president of the United States as, razor in hand, he sat editing the Gospels during February 1804, on (as he himself says) "2. or 3. nights only at Washington, after getting thro' the evening task of reading the letters and papers of the day." He was apparently quite sure that he could tell what was genuine and what was not in the transmitted text of the New Testament... (Thomas Jefferson. The Jefferson Bible; Jefferson and his Contemporaries, an afterward by Jaroslav Pelikan, Boston: Beacon Press, 1989, p. 149.).

Emanuel Paparella2014-07-04 17:06:49
Thank you Ovi Team for reprinting the Declaration of American Independence together with the lively discussion that took place in the comment section some 7 years ago, and which, I notice, is still quite relevant today when so many geo-political identities are in crisis.

Emanuel Paparella2015-07-04 13:46:53
Thanks again to Ovi for continuing the tradition of reprinting the Declaration of Independence. In re-reading the attached comments, I conclude that they are still relevant today when economics rather than democracy is the supreme interest of many nations who consider themselves democratic and free.

Emanuel Paparella2015-07-04 13:51:51
Another comment, if I may, in reading the signatures appended to the Declaration of Independence, one of the last names from South Carolina stands out: it is the same name as that of the pastor oe Emmanuel Churhc which was gunned down by a white supremacist only two weeks ago. The reason of course is that one of his ancestors took the name from the master to whom he was a slave. Indeed, in history, what goes around, comes around.

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