On July 4, 1776 thirteen United States of America made a unanimous Declaration of Independence in Congress. 56 representatives of the United States of America, present in General Congress made this public declaration of their intentions and signed the Declaration document. The draft document was prepared by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and 28th of the same year.
What does the Declaration of Independence state briefly?
In summary, the Declaration of independence says that there is need for America to break off their relationship with the British politically and end the colonial rule. The representatives opined that it was the right of America to assume independence accorded to it through the natural laws of nature and nature’s God. They stated that they believed that all men are equal and hold unequivocal rights as given to them by their creator. These rights include the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To ensure that these rights are undeniable people institute governments to protect and enforce these rights. The government obtains it authority from the people who instituted it and this gives the people the right to dissolve a government that is seen to abandon its responsibilities to the people. Although the governed hold the power to dissolve governments they cannot do so based on trivial reasons. Their reasons need to be assessed and be found worthy to the cause of public good. The British administration was stifling the rights of the American people and warnings from their representatives were ignored by the King and the British administration. To this end the representatives and the American people were forced to declare their independence in order to institute their own government which would protect and enforce their rights.
Why did America make The Declaration of Independence?
There were many reasons that led to the Declaration of independence as captured in the document. Basically the American people and their representatives were tired of the oppression by the British administration and the tyranny exercised by King George III of Great Britain in his dealings with the American issues. There was also the need to justify their reasons for breaking away, to the rest of the world. This means the document was not only directed to the British but it was also to be read and understood by the world. Of course, the world and other colonies were expected to offer their support when the time came based on reason and the evidence presented by the representatives. The Declaration of Independence was a shared oath between the representatives to support the independence process regardless of the risks involved. They were forced to make the declaration of independence because it was the only way that they would institute their own local government that would ensure the protection of the peoples’ unequivocal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The accusations against the King and as captured in the Declaration document can be seen below:
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 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 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.
The issues raised above also point to the importance of the Declaration of independence.
What are enlightenment ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence?
Enlightenment ideas are based on reason they offer an opportunity for individuals to challenge traditional lines of authority that at the time were vested on religion or the monarchy. The American Declaration sought to separate the American people from the British monarchy. The monarchy had established ideals that were oppressive against their subjects especially the external groups. Some of the enlightenment ideas that are portrayed in the Declaration include;
“the laws of nature and of nature’s God” this statement as stated in the Declaration points to the principle of Natural Justice.
“endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights” this statement points to the fundamental freedoms and rights that are protected by nature and nature’s God.
“governments are instituted among men” this statement points to the principle of justice.
“deriving their powers from the consent of the governed” this statement connects with the one above to establish that the citizens have to be consulted and reach a consensus to establish a government. Thus the government is established for the people by the people following the principle of popular sovereignty.
“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 statement points to the ability of the people to mount resistance against oppressive governments.
“Prudence” this statement basically speaks of the need for people to apply common sense when establishing governments.
Why did America take over a year to declare their independence after the outbreak of the American revolutionary war?
The Continental Congress was not an official assembly at least according to the colonial charters. The members derived their authority from citizens. The issue of Declaration was not simple given Britain had an established army with vast experience and members supporting the declaration would definitely hang for treason and place the entire nation in harm’s way. It took a considerable amount of time to marshal support for this idea and also inform the people about the consequences of such an action. The reason for this is that it is the people that will eventually fight since it was obvious that Britain would not accept this new situation.
What are some of the contradictions of the Declaration of Independence?
They were several statements that were made in the Declaration but were not being applied practically in the American society at that particular time.
Although the Declaration was written to communicate the idea of the people several groups were not considered and these include; the women, native community and the African-Americans. These groups’ grievances were not addressed and some of the rights stipulated in the document did not apply to them. White people in the south were still allowed to have slaves (breaching the unalienable rights of the African Americans). These groups were not allowed to vote this was in breach on the statement speaking of the requirement that governments are established with the consent of the governed.