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Above painting by J. Trumbull 1817 - Primary author, Thomas Jefferson, is shown placing the Declaration before John Hancock, president of the Congress. With him stand the other members of the Declaration committee: John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston. (Painting shows 42 of the 56 signers.)
are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed…”
The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
The Continental Congress assigned a committee to prepare the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams & Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman & Robert Livingston
Benjamin Franklin; John Adams & Thomas Jefferson editing the Declaration of Independence.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
On the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1826, John Adams, the second president and Thomas Jefferson, the third president, both authors of the Declaration of Independence, died. Also, on July 4, 1831, James Monroe, the fifth president, died.
Rest In Peace
The term “Social Contract” was used by many great philosophers who added to the debate about the best and most natural form of union in a society between man, his fellow man, and the government body.
In the fourth century B.C. great philosopher Plato put forth several central doctrines having to do with human values and human virtues, and Aristotle questioned the political status quo of oppressive government structures.
Over the centuries, many great philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, Bernard Mandeville, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote their arguments on the Social Contract - a moral and political theory.
Philosopher John Locke, wrote his
Social Contract theories, and
based the principles
of their new country on
Locke's theories of
freedom & liberty
which is bestowed on
each individual as a birthright
by the Creator of all.
Also, government restraint.
A starting point for human association as described in John Locke’s Social Contract theory is referenced in The Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence was the first announcement of the reasons for separation from the British Crown - and it expressed the spirit of the new association of the People.
The thirteen united States declared their desire to break their political bands with England and,
“. . . 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 . . .
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 a 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 . . ."
John Locke and the United States of America believe in a Creator (God) as the beginning source of human life.
It is this Creator (not a religion) that has bestowed on each individual as a birthright liberties and obligations.
According to Locke, a person who is born into this world is considered to be born into a
State of Nature.
Locke defines State of Nature as, “Men living together according to reason without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, are properly in the state of nature.”
Locke’s Laws of Nature, “…teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent… For the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain, if there were nobody that in the state of nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent and restrain offenders.”
It is these words and spirit of the great philosopher John Locke’s An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government that embrace what became America’s ideals and principles for individual freedom and government restraint.
The Colonists arrived from many lands to America's wilderness land & through the sweat of their brows, created new communities.
Their hard work & self-determination in an environment of liberty, led to thriving businesses & opportunities not available in their home countries.
But, rather than reaping the benefits of their labor, at the King's command they suffered years of oppressive taxes, trade restrictions & other assaults to their lives & livelihoods.
The King's troops forced compliance & used violence to suppress any resistance to the King's demands.
These actions led the Colonists to unite for protection & self-preservation. The July 4th American Declaration of Independence began revolutionary change for "commoners."
Among many other offences (stated in the Declaration), British Troops searched private homes, with no cause or warrant;
Troops forcefully & without permission took possession & quartered in private homes;
1770 - Colonists continued to resist; Troops killed 5 Colonists; Colonists began stockpiling weapons;
1775 - British Troops tried to seize weapons, and killed more colonists. -
The fight was on!
Patrick Henry, a member of the House of Burgesses, urged his fellow Virginians to take up arms & defend their rights,
"I know not what course others may take but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
The Continental Congress debated whether to declare themselves free from British rule, or to continue to try and reason with the King.
A committee was assigned to draft a document, which was debated and revised.
On July 4, 1776, the text was signed - "Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest. Charles Thomson, Secretary." The document declared that the colonies wanted to dissolve their bonds with England and establish their own government body to protect their God-given Liberties & Freedoms, " 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 . . ."
The first time the term “United States” was used was about 175 years after the first colonies were settled. Thomas Jefferson referred to the thirteen united States in the American Declaration of Independence which we celebrate on July 4th.
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
and our sacred Honor.
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
The Declaration is 1,458 words with signatures.
A copy of the printed version of the approved Declaration was inserted into the "rough journal" of the Continental Congress for July 4. The text was followed by the words "Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest. Charles Thomson, Secretary." On July 9 Congress officially approved. All 13 colonies approved. The document we see today was prepared & signed after July 4.
Timeline of major taxation events leading colonists to form new self-government system