Page images

He has abdicated government here [withdrawing his govErnors, and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection].'

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 and perfidy [ ]' 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 [ ] 3 endeavored 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 (of existence].

[He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow-citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN shoulit be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprivert them, by murdering the people on whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.]

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 injuries.

A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which

may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a [ ]* peo

*by deciaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.
2 2 scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally
3 excited domestic insurrection among us, and has
4 free

ple (who mean to be free. Future ages will scarcely believe that the hardiness of one man adventureil

, within the short compass of twelve years only, to lay a foundation so broad and so undisguised for tyranny over a people fostered and fixed in principles of freedom.

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 [a]' jurisdiction over [these our States).” We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here, [no one of which could warrant so strange a pretension : that these were effected at the expense of our own blood and treasure, un issisted by the wealth or the strength of Great Britain : that in constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted one commin king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league and amity with them: but that submission to their parliament was no part of our Constitution, nor ever in idea, if history may be credited : ani,] we [ ] appealed to their native justice and magnanimity (as w:ll as to] * the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which (were likely to] - interrupt our connection and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity, [and when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have, by their free election, re-established them in power. At this very time too, they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch and foreign mercenaries to invade and destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, ani manly spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. We m'est endeavor to forget our former love for them, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. We might have been a free and a great people together; but a communication of gran leur and of freedom, it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so,

since they wili hirve it. The road to happiness and to glory is open to us too. We will tread it apart from them, and]“ acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our [eternal] separation [ ]'! We therefore the represent

We therefore the representatives of the United States atives of the United States of America in General Con- of America in General Con






an unwarrantable

3 have 4 and we have conjured them by

5 would inevitably 6 We must therefore

?and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

gress assembled, appealing to gress assembled, do in the the supreme judge of the name, and by the authority of world for the rectitude of our the good people of these intentions, do in the name, [States reject and renounce all and by the authority of the allegiance and subjection to the good people of these Colonies, kings of Great Britain and all solemnly publish and declare, others who may hereafter claim that these united Colonies are, by, through, or under them; we and of right ought to be, free utterly dissolve all political con

. and independent States; that nection which may heretofore they are absolved from all have subsisted between us and allegiance to the British crown, the people or parliament of Great and that all political connec- Britain : and finally we do astion between them and the sert and declare these Colonies to state of Great Britain is, and be free and independent States,] ought to be, totally dissolved ; and that as free and indepenand that as free and indepen- dent States, they have full dent States, they have full

power to levy war, conclude power to levy war, conclude

peace, contract alliances, espeace, contract alliances, es- tablish commerce, and to do tablish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which all other acts and things which independent States may of independent States may of right do. right do.

And for the support of And for the support of this this declaration, we mutually declaration, with a firm reliance pledge to each other our lives, on the protection of divine our fortunes, and our sacred providence, we mutually pledge honor. to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

The original copy of the Declaration of Independence, signed at Phil. adelphia, is preserved at the Patent Office in Washington. It is not divided into paragraphs, but dashes are inserted. The arrangement of paragraphs here followed is that adopted by John Dunlap, who printed the Declaration for Congress — this printed copy being inserted in the original Journal of the old Congress. The same paragraphs are also made by Jefferson, in the original draught, preserved in the Department of State. The names of the signers are here spelled as in the original. The names of the states do not appear in the original. The names of the signers of each State are, however, grouped together, except the name of Matthew Thornton, which follows that of Oliver Wolcott.

A very full account of the circumstances immediately preceding the Declaration and leading up to it, with special reference to the part taken by Jefferson, is given in Randall's Life of Jefferson, vol. i, chaps. iv an

The discussion of the authorship of the Declaration, in the latter chapter. is particularly interesting and valuable. The following letter from Jefferson to Madison ( August 30, 1823), which was drawn out by a very careless and faulty statement of the circumstances by John Adams, is undoubtedly the correct and sufficient word upon this subject :

MONTICELLO, August 30, 1823. DEAR SIR,- I receive the enclosed letters from the President, with a request, that after perusal I would forward them to you, for perusal by yourself also, and to be returned then to him. You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickerings' fourth of July observations on the Declaration of Independence. If his principles and prejudices, personal and political, gave us no reason to doubt whether he had truly quoted the information he alleges to have received from Mr. Adams, I should then say, that in some of the particulars, Mr. Adams' memory has led him into unquestionable strument, had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before the 4th of July, '76, or this dictum also of Mr. Adams be another slip of memory, let history say. This, however, I will say for Mr. Adams, that he supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. As to myself, I thought it a duty to be, on that occasion, a passive auditor of the opinions of others, more impartial judges than I could be, of its merits or demerits. During the debate I was sitting by Doctor Franklin, and he observed that I was writhing a little under the acrimonious criticisms on some of its parts; and it was on that occasion, that by way of comfort, he told me the story of John Thompson, the hatter, and his new sign. Timothy thinks the instrument the better for having a fourth of it expunged. He would have thought it still better, had the ctier three-fourths gone out also, all but the single se:timent (the only one he approves), which recommends friendship to his dear England, whenever she is willing to be at peace with us.


At the age of eighty-eight, and forty-seven years after the iransactions of Independence, this is not wonderful. Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on the sinall advantage of that difference only, venture to oppose my memory to his, were it not supported by written notes, taken by myself at the moment and on the spot. He says, the committee of five, to wit, Dr. Franklin, Sherman, Livingston, and ourselves, met, discussed the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the draught; that we, as a subcommittee, met, and after the urgencies of each on the other, I consented to undertake the task; that the draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested a single alteration. Now these details are quite incorrect. The committee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, requesting their corrections, because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit, before presenting it to the committee; and you have seen the original paper now in my hands, with the corrections of Dr. Frankl'n and Mr. Adams interlined in their own hand writings. Their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered, to Congress. This personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he has misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickering's observations, and Mr. Adams' in addition, that it contained no new ideas, that it is a common-place compilation, its sentiments hacknied in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis' pamphlet,' may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge. Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke's treatise on government. phlet I never saw, and whe:her I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before. Had Mr. Adams been so restrained, Congress would have lost the benefit of his bold and impressive advocations of the rights of Revolution. For no man's confident and fervid addresses, more than Mr. Adams', encouraged and supported us through the difficulties surrounding us, which, like the ceaseless action of gravity, weighed on us by night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we may ask what of these elevated thoughts was new; or can be affirmed never before to have entered the conceptions of man? Whether, also, the sentiments of Independence, and the reasons for declaring it, which make so great a portion of the in

Otis' pam

His in-inuations are, that although the high tone of the instrument was in unison with the warm feelings of the times, this sentiment of habitual friendship to England should never be forgotten, and that the duties it enjoins should especially be borne in inind on every celebration of this anniversary.' In other words, that the Declaration, as being a libel on the government of England, composed in times of passion, should now be buried in utter oblivion, to spare the feelings of our English friends and Angloman fellow-citizens. But it is not to wound them that we wish to keep it in mind; but to cherish the principles of the instrument in the bosoms of our own citizens: and it is a heavenly comfort to see that these principles are yet so strongly felt, as to render a circumstance so trifling as this little lapse of memory of Mr. Adams', worthy of being solemnly announced and supported at an anniversary assemblage of the nation on its birthday. In opposition, however, to Mr. Pickering, I pray God that these principles may be eternal, and close the prayer with my affectionate wishes for yourself of long life, health and happiness.”

A somewhat famous charge of want of originality, which has been brought against the Declaration of Independence, may here be noticed. A paper, styled

THE MECKLENBURG DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, said to have been adopted by the Committee of Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, May 20, 1775, the day after the receipt of the news of the battle of Lexington, was first published in the Raleigh (N. C.) Register, April 30, 1819. It was as follows, the phrases coinciding with those of the National Declaration being printed in italics :

1. Resolved, That whosoever directly or indirectly abetted, or in any way, form, or manner, countenanced the unchartered and dangerous invasion of our rights, as claimed by Great Britain, is an enemy to this Country - to America — and to the inherent and inalienable rights of man.

Pesolved, That we the citizens of Mecklenburg County, do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown, and abjure all political connection, contract, or association, with that Nation, who have wantonly trampled on our rights and liberties - and inhumanly shed the innocent blood of American patriots at Lexington.

3. Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people, are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing Association, under the control of no power other than that of our God and


« PreviousContinue »