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Declaration of Independence

A declaration is a document or instrument by which an assertion or announcement is authoritatively verified; as, a legal declaration; the Declaration of Independence. The solemn declaration of the Congress of the United States of America, on the 4th of July, 1776, by which they formally renounced their subjection to the government of Great Britain. — Webster, 1882

The Ingalls girls knew the Declaration of Independence by heart, “but it gave them a solemn, glorious feeling to hear the words.” -Little Town on the Prairie, Chapter 8, “Fourth of July”

In Farmer Boy (see Chapter 16, “Independence Day”), a Congressman stood on a platform and read the Declaration of Independence solemnly and slowly.

The following is from Laura’s history book from the time of Little Town on the Prairie: Edward Taylor’s The Model History, George Sherwood and Company, 1878, pages 390-391. Text of the Declaration of Independence is on pages 392-394.

The idea of independence was a thing of growth. It was “not an act of sudden passion, nor the work of one man or one assembly.” In May, 1776, Washington, with the army at New York, said: “When I first took the command of the army I abhorred the idea of independence; but I am now fully convinced that nothing else will save us.” The question was discussed everywhere — by farmers, merchants, mechanics, fishermen on the coast, lumbermen in the woods. It was talked about at the town-meetings, from the pulpit, by the campfires, in the social gatherings. Congress waited to hear from the people.

Massachusetts gave her delegates in Congress instructions favoring a declaration in January, 1776. South Carolina followed in March, Georgia on April 5, and North Carolina on April 12. On May 4 Rhode Island renounced British allegiance. on May 15 Virginia gave her delegates, at Philadelphia, positive directions to propose and vote for independence, and she urged her sister colonies to do likewise.

On June 7 Richard Henry Lee, inspired by this action of his colony, introduced the following Resolution: “Resolved, that the 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 Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved. That it is expedient forthwith to take the most effective measures for forming foreign alliances. That a plan of Confederation be proposed and transmitted to the respective colonies for their consideration and approbation.” John Adams seconded it. At 10 o’clock on the next day the debate began, and it lasted till 7. Livingstone, Wilson, Dickinson, and Rutledge opposed the adoption. John Adams, and many delegates from New England, Virginia, and Georgia, spoke in its favor. On Monday, June 10, Rutledge moved to defer further action for three weeks, to allow delegates time to hear from their constituents and assemblies. The motion prevailed. Next day Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Sherman and Livingstone were chosen by ballot to prepare a formal Declaration in harmony with Mr. Lee’s Resolution. Jefferson was chosen to draft the instrument; both because he represented Virginia, whence the proposition originated, and because he received more ballots than either of the other four.

The invitation of Virginia was responded to by the assembly of Connecticut on June 14, by that of New Hampshire on the fifteenth, by New Jersey on the twenty-first, by Pennsylvania on the twenty-fourth, by Maryland on the twenty-eighth.

On the expiration of the three weeks, July 1, Congress resolved itself “into a committee of the whole to take into consideration the Resolution respecting independency.” In the absence of Mr. Lee, all eyes turned to John Adams. He rehearsed for the new members from New Jersey the arguments used in the former debate. Mr. Dickinson, of Pennsylvania, in an elaborate speech, gave his reasons for opposing the Resolution. Other members spoke. The vote was then taken. Nine colonies sustained the Resolution, the vote of South Carolina and Pennsylvania being in the negative, and Delaware being a tie. The committee then arose and Benjamin Harrison, of Virginia, the father of the ninth President, reported the Resolution.

On the following day, July 2, forty-nine members were present. Rodney had returned and Delaware was no longer a tie. Dickinson was absent, probably by design, which enabled Pennsylvania to vote for independence. South Carolina, for the sake of unanimity, did likewise. New York did not vote. Thus the twelve colonies, without one dissenting vote, adopted the Resolution.

That vote changed the thirteen colonies into free and independent states. It remained only to set forth formally the reasons for the act. Jefferson wrote the document out of a full mind and without consulting any book. He then submitted it separately to Franklin and to Adams. He accepted from each one or two verbal corrections, and so on June 28 he reported it to Congress. Immediately after the adoption of the Resolution, on July 2, the Declaration was taken up. During the rest of that day and the next two, the words, statements, and principles of the paper were closely scanned. This work was completed late in the afternoon of July 4, when, New York still declining to vote, twelve states, without one negative voice, agreed to the Declaration. It was not signed on that day, but it was attested by the president and the secretary, and published to the world.

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 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 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 complete 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 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.

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.

[signed] Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, John Hancock, Samuel Chase, William Pace, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Samuel Adam, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, Matthew Thornton.


Declaration of Independence (FB 12, 28)
     freedom as created by God / born free and equal (TLW 1; LTP 8; THGY 6; PG)
     reading of (FB 16; LTP 24)