In Part 1 there was a great deal of
discussion about what a government should be and how it is beneficial
to a nation. In this next section we are going to look at some of the
reason and proof for choosing to separate from Britain and form their
own, new government.
“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
So they start out by saying that
governments should not be changed without a very strong reason. Not
only should they not be changed or overthrown but by man’s very
nature, folks aren’t willing to even consider it without a compelling
reason. They state that people are willing to suffer a great deal
under the status quo for no other reason than it’s what they’re used
“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.”
So here they throw the gauntlet down
and get straight to the point. The Kingship of Britain over the
colonies had become nothing more than a direct tyranny over the
colonies. Not only that, but they state that there have been repeated
instances of this over many years and that they have tried being
patient and suffered under this system. One thing folks should
remember here is that these were people loyal to the King who
considered themselves British citizens up to this point. But over the
years of having all the rights of Citizenship stripped of them
finally couldn’t bear being under a dictator with absolutely no say
in their own governance.
But just to be clear, because they
don’t want to be accused of making wild accusations, they very
clearly spell out exactly what has been happening over the past few
decades. I’ll list just a few of these.
“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.”
So here we have an interesting problem. The colonies needed laws
to be passed “for the public good” and the King was not allowing
the laws to be passed. How’s that for an interesting start to a list
of complaints? It was, in fact, partly a lack of governance that the
colonies had a problem with.
“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.”
Here’s a big one. The King was
requiring people to relinquish the right of representation in
legislature in order to pass laws to allow the creation of large
districts of people. In essence, he was removing rights of
citizenship that British subjects already had. They were losing the
right to have access to the representative government already in
place. In effect, becoming the subjects of a complete dictatorship.
Imagine what would happen today if the Federal government said people
could only live in Florida if they gave up their right to the vote.
Probably wouldn’t go over too well. It didn’t back then either.
“He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the
tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their
This, obviously, would have
created a completely corrupt judicial system in the colonies. There
would be no legal recourse for anything that was contrary to the
King. Any judge foolish enough to side with the colonies on a point
of law could, and would, be removed immediately.
“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.”
These are two very interesting
points in my view regarding the military. It was apparently
understood that during times of peace, a government’s military would
shrink. It could then be grown quickly in times of war. However, the
King kept a large standing army on hand with the implied purpose of
keeping the citizenship in line. Interestingly though, they mention
that the military should not be independent of or superior to civil
power. In short, the military should be there to defend the citizens,
not to be used against them.
“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
Here we find that the colonists felt
that the King had already, in fact, started war against the colonies
for all intents and purposes. What’s interesting though is that they
still saw it as fighting their fellow citizens. Even to this point
there was still a strong feeling that they had been betrayed and were
being forced to part ways from their homeland.
“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.”
Here we have a final reminder that
attempts at peace have been tried for years. Both through petitioning
the King directly and through trying to gain support in the British
Parliament. All of this was to no effect and in the end they were
ignored and left to be treated as lesser to their fellow countrymen.
I expect it was very difficult for the colonists to understand why
they were looked at no longer as fellow Brits, but instead as some
kind of rustic, backwoods buffoons. But even in that they mention
being enemies in war, but friends in the expected peace to eventually
“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.”
So now, in the final paragraph we have
the actual declaration. For such a long document I find it intriguing
that the actual declaration is so very short in comparison to the
long, detailed explanation of what has been going on, how they feel
about it, and why they are making this decision. I’m also impressed
by the feeling of solemnity, seriousness, and regret, which they seem
to be doing this with. It wasn’t the backup plan or even the backup
to the backup plan. This was the inconceivable last resort which they
were facing in light of a dictatorship which they weren’t willing to
live under. The freedom which was so eloquently described in the
beginning was being denied them and they were ready to fight for it
if appeals to the parliament would not bring it about. These were
people who knew what justice, elections, and representative
government meant. When they saw what had happened to the British
Empire, they knew they needed a new system of government.