The Declaration of Independence is more than just a revolutionary document, but rather a document that was revolutionary for it's time. The War of American Independence was not the first time in history that subjects attempted to overthrow what they saw as unjust rule, there are 44 documented cases of that attempt happening between 1 AD and 999 AD, and another 88 attempted between 1000 AD and the start of the American Revolution.
So, what makes the American Revolution unique? The Declaration of Independence is truly nothing more than the nicest declaration of war ever written. The people of the United States explained to the world in simple terms what was wrong with the current government, and why it must be set aside for the good of the colonists and the people of the United States. Never has a war been declared so delicately, with the signatories of the Declaration saying "...that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states."
The language of the Declaration of Independence is truly a thing of beauty and a look at revolutionary ideas that were far ahead of their time. The first sentence of the second paragraph clearly says something that had been in the hearts and minds of men for hundreds of years, but never before had been written down for everyone to understand. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." This thought is second nature to us now, a belief that all people are created equal is a fundamental part of who we are as Americans, but then, in 1776, it was a concept that had never been written down, ink to paper.
Finally, I think it's important to remember the tremendous courage it took for the fifty-six men who wrote their names at the bottom of this historic sheet of parchment. Not only was this momentous document a declaration of war against one of the premier military powers in the world, but it was, in effect, a death warrant for those men who signed below those words; "...we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
In this day and age that last line is of utmost important in the world. The first Americans were beholden to a sense of civic duty, a belief that the nation took precedence over self, and that by banding together they could accomplish great things. I won't try to convince anyone that the founding fathers were a unified group of men who stood in lockstep with one another, and never disagreed. I will hope that in reading the below declaration you understand that even in disagreement these great men put country before self, and together accomplished something great.
That is a lesson that permeates America throughout it's history. The interstate highway system wasn't a project that both parties agreed on. The Hoover Dam was thought to be a giant waste of money by half the people in the country. The Space Program was thought to be a colossal waste of time and resources by many people in America. Social Security was opposed by the Republican Party. Yet, in each of these cases, we set aside our differences and worked together to accomplish something great.
It's that time again for Americans, a time when great things need to be done and some semblance of compromise must take place for them to happen. We should, no, we must, work together to make the world a better place, not as a nanny state or a police nation, but as a caring friend to allies around the world, and an example for the nations led by men and women who disagree with us.
We must work together to accomplish the things that are worth accomplishing. We must see to it that despots and tyrants are not allowed free reign over unarmed people. We must see to it that free people are allowed the freedom of self-governance. We must see to it that every American still enjoys the basic rights that our founders fought for. We must work together to provide for Americans the things that every person should never be without; food, medical care, education, an opportunity to pursue happiness.
We must, more than 200 years after we cast aside the yoke of destructive government, do better. Too many Americans are wanting of too many basic needs, and in response to these problems, our politicians campaign. They campaign, they chase new jobs, they chase more votes, they chase a victory that is hollow because once they have arrived in their new offices, too much time is devoted to the corporations who made massive contributions, and not enough time is given to actually solving the problems of this country.
Despite disagreements, the great men of early America understood that compromise was the only way you ever got anything done. As a nation, our leaders are failing us in this regard. It is time for compromise, it is time for us to once again accomplish something great. It is time for us to write a new chapter, a new Declaration, a new document that Americans will look back on in 200 years and understand that we were now, as we were then, great.
Enough of my ranting, if you're still here, enjoy the Declaration, copied below.
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 bonds 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 to 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 shown 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 meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration 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 legislature.He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to 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 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 offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring 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 in 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, burned 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 and 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 endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is 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 attention 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 the 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.
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton