On the Fourth of July, my family continued a long-standing American tradition; we celebrated our country’s Independence Day by reading aloud the document we honor that day: The Declaration of Independence. I believe that looking carefully at this document helps us understand our history and the purpose for which this nation was founded.
During the past two weeks, I have discussed the Declaration part-by-part. The first week, I talked about the Preamble and the Declaration of Rights. Last week, I went into the Bill of Indictment. This week, I will discuss the last two parts, the Appeal Against Grievances and the Statement of Independence.
Declaration Part III
The Appeal Against Grievances
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.
Not only did the King commit all the crimes listed in the Bill of Indictment, he also left no room for appeal. In his system of government, there was no higher court than the King. His subjects had no recourse; no one could arbitrate between them. That lends itself to tyranny. They conclude that such a king is unable to rule a people who, in every other respect, claims the title “free”.
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.
Having made the case that the King could not rule them, our Founding Fathers pointed out that we could not remain free if we remained part of the British people. Their brotherhood and their natural love of justice was not enough to pressure the king to treat his colonies well. Since nothing was done, America must think of Britain no differently than other nations.
The Statement of Independence
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.
This is the final purpose of the document: These colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent. This paragraph contains the “declaration of independence”. But for our founders, to declare was not enough. They wanted to show the reasons to the world and to posterity.
The entire document is a guard against the repetition of history. It reminds the government what it is for and what will happen if it tries to undermine its authority. And it tells the people that only for such grave reasons can a government to be overthrown.
The Declaration, War of Independence, and subsequent success of the American Experiment inspired many who were oppressed to follow America’s example. But few carried it out with the same philosophical forethought and prudent care for the common good with which our founders have blessed us.
God bless them, and God bless America!