Document Spells Out 'Reasons' For Independence
by U.S. Army Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Public Affairs Office
July 4, 2018
“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.”
Thus begins the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson and agreed to by the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress representing the 13 colonies of the new United States of America on July 4, 1776.
The Declaration of Independence and Founding Father's signing it on July 4, 1776. (Image created by USA Patriotism!)
Now, 242 years later, perhaps it’s time to take a look at just what these founding fathers agreed to and felt was important. And maybe we should reevaluate how we see this document today.
Jefferson wrote that “self-evident” truths included that all men were created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He goes on to explain that governments should be formed and derive their powers from those whom they govern. However, Jefferson points out that if government becomes destructive, it is the right of the governed to “alter or abolish it, and to institute new government.”
Next, the document contains a list of 19 abuses by England’s King George III, including “a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states.”
Following the laundry list of abuses, Jefferson identifies the steps the colonies have taken to remedy what they saw as oppressive rule by George III, referred to as “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.”
He also warned their “British brethren” of the colonists’ attempts for a peaceful resolution of the injustices, referring to them the same way they saw the rest of mankind, “enemies in war, in peace friends.”
The next paragraph of the Declaration of Independence is often considered the birth of the United States as it states, “solemnly publish and declare that these united colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent states.”
The effect was a declaration of war against the British.
Image of the masterpiece artwork by Emanuel Leutze (1851) showing General George Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware River during the American Revolutionary War.
Jefferson ended the document by saying that for support, the colonies had a “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” and they “mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
With the signatures of 56 delegates, the document was made official and the United States of America came into existence.
It would be a long, difficult road to earn the title of a free nation, but with men such as Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Samuel and John Adams, and other famous and not-so-famous leaders, the sometimes floundering compilation of citizen Soldiers would defeat the much better equipped British.
From its humble beginnings, the United States has grown to become the undisputed world leader. As we prepare to celebrate the 242nd birthday of the U.S. on Wednesday, let us not forget the sacrifices made by those who committed what were consider treasonous acts in order to right what they saw as oppressive, unlawful rule.
We should also remember those who have fought to maintain that freedom, from the Revolutionary War through today’s War on Terror, ensuring our nation remains the land of the free and home of the brave.
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