A critique of the Declaration of Independence.

United States Declaration of Independence

United States Declaration of Independence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Declaration of Independence here refers to the document drafted and signed in 1776 declaring the separation of 13 colonies along the Atlantic coast of North America from the British Empire. It is indeed one of the greatest writings ever made in human history…..but that hardly means it is flawless. Indeed, in this age it may be considered obsolete and merit some serious criticism. I will post text from it in red and my critiques of it in green.

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.

Considering that the colonists involved were mostly of the same European-Caucasian stock as the people still in Britain, this is odd. If this had been written by black people of Africa striving to break free from British rule, this would have made better sense. But in fact, the blacks in the colonies were mostly slaves and their freedom was not an issue here.

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.

No, those ideas are NOT self-evident. What about that slavery issue? And if by “Creator” they meant the Biblical God, that is certainly not valid. That God was by nature an absolute monarch and ruled his subjects like kings and emperors did, even condemning to hell those who rejected his rule. What rights do people have in such a system? NONE!

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

This was derived from the political philosophy of John Locke. In reality, kings and other absolute rulers never attempt to get consent from their people to rule. They simply take power by force and keep it by force…..until another tyrant overthrows them. The American Revolution was the first serious attempt in modern times to break that cycle, and it worked. But it would have been far more accurate for the Declaration to have said,  “Governments should be 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.

This makes perfect sense. It should be that way everywhere.

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.

Maybe that explains most of the absolute monarchies and dictatorships that have existed for many decades in many parts of the world. But is it not better to say that NO evils should be considered sufferable, in order for the people to constantly seek and establish the best possible governments?

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.

The recent revolts overthrowing the dictators of Tunisia and Egypt were all about this. Ironically, the USA supported the regime of Hosni Mubarak until this year because it did not attempt to destroy the State of Israel, despite Mubarak being abusive to his own people. Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?

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 harass our people and eat out their substance.

I cannot comment on most of the supposed violations of the king referred to here, but I will make note of this one:  Libertarians  ofter refer to this and claim that many of governmental offices established in the USA are no better than what the British monarch did. Including the IRS, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

Today, the USA has by far the largest military budget in the world. In fact, it is six times larger than that of any other nation! 

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:

This refers to the Boston Massacre. Ironically, the British soldiers who committed it were defended at their trial by John Adams, who would later become the second President of the United States. Hardly a “mock trial”, the proceedings were an attempt to give the soldiers a fair one. Thus, this statement was totally unjustified.

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

The purpose of the colonies was to increase the wealth of the United Kingdom. Imposing taxes was part of this. You might as well have asked for there to be no colonies.

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit 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

This refers to Canada, which remained in the British Empire, partly because so many Loyalists from the colonies fled to it as the American Revolution took place. Even more ironically, part of Canada was Quebec, a French colony which had been conquered by the British in the French and Indian War decades earlier.  But the British were able to hold onto Quebec anyway. Maybe if the French and Indian War had not been fought, the British would not have lost the other American colonies. Even the strongest national empire can only do so much.

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.

Many of these mercenaries came from the German kingdoms and provinces. But the colonies soon got their own mercenaries from France and other countries. 

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.

This was known as impressment and was similar to the draft or conscription that was done to increase the membership of armies in most countries, then and now. After the Revolution, the United States never did this, and after the Vietnam War the draft for the land based American Armed Forces was abolished as well. Drafting and impressment are forms of slavery.

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.

This is a statement of blatant racism. Native American tribes, like all other human groups, have a variety of behaviors. Plus, they were fighting in most cases to keep the land they had been living on that the whites were stealing from them. And consider what the U S Army did to Native Americans in the Wounded Knee Massacre, which until recently was called the “Battle” of Wounded Knee.

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.

Here are some examples of  Earth’s core irony: In addition to killing off Native Americans and imprisoning the survivors in concentration camps called “reservations”, we Americans conquered Hawaii and disposed of its own native government for American business interests and then fought a war to keep control of the Phillippines after taking those islands from Spain. I cannot imagine a Native American, a native Hawaiian, or a Philippine reading the Declaration of Independence and regarding it with anything other than scorn. And I swear, if I ever hear another conservative American politician claim that we owe our freedom to the American troops, I will scream! It’s simply one of the biggest lies ever told. It wasn’t generals who wrote the Declaration of Independence or the U S Constitution of 1787, it was LAWYERS. And you don’t hire a soldier to fight for your rights in a court, do you?

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.

Maybe those British subjects were as blind to their wrongdoings as Americans today are often blind to many of their nation’s wrongdoings over the past 200 years.

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.

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2 thoughts on “A critique of the Declaration of Independence.

  1. Pingback: A critique of the Declaration of Independence

  2. Pingback: What Trump’s Victory Means | Dale Husband's Intellectual Rants

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