Benson John Lossing.

Harper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) online

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considerably amended. It was evident io the order of the day. Congress resolved

from the beginning that a majority of the itself into a committee of the whole to

colonies would vote for independence (the consider the declaration, President John

vote in Congress v r as by colonies), but it Hancock in the chair. The secretary,

was important that the vote should be Benjamin Harrison, reported that the

unanimous. committee had agreed upon a declaration,

The declaration was warmly debated on which was read and adopted as follows:
the day (July 2) when the resolution was

passed, and also on the 3d. Meanwhile When, in the course of human events,

news came of the arrival of a large Brit- it becomes necessary for one people to

35



DECLARATION OP INDEPENDENCE



dissolve the political bands which have experience hath shown that mankind are
connected them with another, and to as- more disposed to suffer, while evils are
sume among the powers of the earth the sufferable, than to right themselves by
separate and equal station to which the abolishing the forms to which they are

accustomed. But when a
long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing in
variably the same object,

i^ -a#* evinces a design to reduce

them under absolute des
potism, 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 suf
ferance of these colonies;
and such is now the ne
cessity which constrains
them to alter their formal
system of government. The
history of the present King
of Great Britain is a his
tory of repeated injuries
and usurpations, all hav
ing in direct object the es
tablishment of an abso
lute tyranny over these
States. To prove this,

^t facts be Submitted to a

candid world.

laws of nature and of nature s God en- He has refused his assent to laws the

title them, a decent respect for the opin- most wholesome and necessary for the

ions of mankind requires that they should public good.

declare the causes which impel them to He has forbidden his governors to pass

the separation. laws of immediate and pressing impor-

We hold these truths to be self-evident: tance, unless suspended in their opera-

that all men are created equal; that they tions till his assent should be obtained;

are endowed by their Creator with cer- and, when so suspended, he has utterly

tain inalienable rights; that among these neglected to attend to them.

are life, liberty, and the pursuit of hap- He has refused to pass other laws for

piness; that, to secure these rights, the accommodation of large districts of

governments are instituted among men, people, unless those people would relin-

deriving their just poweue from the con- quish the right of representation in the

sent of the governed; that whenever any legislature a right inestimable to them,

form of government becomes destructive and formidable to tyrants only.

of these ends, it is the right of the people He has called together legislative bodies

to alter or to abolish it, and to institute at places unusual, uncomfortable, and dis-

a new government, laying its foundation tant from the depository of their public

on such principles, and organizing its records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing

powers in such form, as to them shall them into compliance with his measures.

seem most likely to effect their safety and He has dissolved representative houses

happiness. Prudence, indeed, will die- repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firm-

tate that governments long established ness, his invasions on the rights of the

should not be changed for light and people.

transient causes; and, accordingly, all He has refused, for a long time after

36




HOUSK IN WHICH JEFFERSON WROTE THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.



DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE



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 danger of invasion from
without and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the popu
lation of these States; for that purpose



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 of
fices, and sent hither swarms of officers,
to harass our people and eat out their
substance.

He has kept among us, in time of peace,




INUKPKNDKNCK HALL, PHILADELPHIA.

obstructing the laws for naturalization of standing armies, without the consent of
foreigners, refusing to pass others to en- our legislatures.

courage their migration hither, and rais- He has affected to render the military
ing the conditions of new appropriations independent of and superior to the civil
of lands. power.

He has obstructed the administration off He has combined with others to subject
justice, by refusing his assent to laws for us to a jurisdiction foreign to our consti-
establishing judiciary powers. tution and unacknowledged by our laws;

37



DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE




GARDKN HOL SB IN WHICH JEFFERSON AND OTHKRS CELEBRATED
THE PASSAGE OF THE DECLARATION.



For abolishing the free system
of English law in a neighboring
province, establishing therein an ar
bitrary government, and enlarging
its boundaries so as to render it at
once an example and fit instru
ment for introducing the same ab
solute rule into these colonies:

For taking away our charters, /
abolishing our most valuable laws,
and altering fundamentally the
forms of our government:

For suspending our own legislat
ures, and declaring themselves in
vested with power to legislate for
us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here
by declaring us out of his protec
tion, and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, rav
aged our coasts, burned our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our peo-
pie.

giving his assent to their acts of pre- He is at this time transporting large
tended legislation, armies cf foreign mercenaries, to com-

For quartering large bodies of armed plete the works of dea.th, desolation, and
troops among
us: : .i | |< ft -jj :!

For protect
ing them, by a
mock trial, from
punishment for
any murders
which they
should commit
on the inhabi
tants 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 trans
porting us be
yond seas, to be
tried for pre
tended Offences: TABLE AND CHAIR CSED AT THE SIGNING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

38




DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE



tyranny, already begun, with circum
stances 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 breth
ren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections
among us, and has endeavored to bring
on the inhabitants of our frontiers the
merciless idian savages, whose known
rule of warfare is an undistinguished de
struction of all ages, sexes, and condi
tions.

In every stage of these oppressions we
have petitioned for redress in the most
humble terms; our 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 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
made by their legislatures 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 consan
guinity. We must therefore acquiesce in
the necessity which denounces our separa
tion, 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 Su
preme Judge of the world for the recti
tude 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 good right ought to be, free and
independent States; that they are ab
solved from all allegiance to the British
crown, and that all political connection
between them and the states of Great



Britain is, and ought to be, totally dis
solved; and that, as free and independent
States, they have full power to levy war,
conclude peace, contract alliances, estab
lish 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 mu
tually pledge to each other our lives, our
fortunes, and our sacred honor.

Signed by order and in behalf of the
Congress.

JOHN HANCOCK, President.
Attested, CHARLES THOMPSON, Secretary.

Neiv Hampshire.

JOSIAH BARTLETT, WILLIAM WHIPPLE,
MATTHEW THORNTON.

Massachusetts Bay.

SAMUEL ADAMS, JOHN ADAMS,

ROBERT TREAT PAINE, ELBRIDGE GERRY.

Rhode Island, Etc.
STEPHEN HOPKINS, WILLIAM ELLERY.

Connecticut.

ROGER SHERMAN, SAMUEL HUNTINGDON,
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.

North Carolina.

WILLIAM HOOPER, JOSEPH HEWES,

JOHN PENN.

Georgia.

BUTTON GWINNETT, LYMAN HALL,

GEORGE WALTON.

Pennsylvania.

ROBERT MORRIS, BENJAMIN RUSH,

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, JOHN MORTON,
GEORGE CLYMER, JAMES SMITH,

GEORGE TAYLOR, WILLIAM PACA,

GEORGE Ross.

Delaware.

CAESAR RODNEY, GEORGE. READ,

THOMAS M KEAN.



DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, CRITICISMS ON THE

Maryland. for such an act, he characterized it as

SAMUEL CHASE, JAMES WILSON, made up of " glittering and sounding gen-

THOMAS STONE, eralities of natural right." What the

CHARLES CARROLL OF CARROLLTON. great advocate then so unhesitatingly sug-

Virginia gested, many a thoughtful American since

GEORGE WYTHE, RICHARD HENRY LEE, then , ha % at J east suspected-that our

THOMAS JEFFERSON, great proclamation as a piece of political

BENJAMIN HARRISON literature cannot stand the test of modern

THOMAS NELSON, JR., analysis; that it belongs to the immense

FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE, dass / <f er -P raised productions; that it

CARTER BRAXTON. IS > m fact a lately patch-work of sweep-

ing propositions of somewhat doubtful
validity; that it has long imposed upon

EDWARD RUTLEDGE, mankind by the well-known effectiveness
THOMAS HEYWARD, JR., of verbal glitter and sound; that, at the
THOMAS LYNCH, JR., best, it is an example of florid political
ARTHUR MIDDLETON. declamation belonging to the sophomoric
Declaration of Independence in the period of our national life, a period which,
Light of Modern Criticism, THE. As a as we flatter ourselves, we have now out-
student, critic, and compiler of American grown.

history PROF. MOSES C. TYLER (q. v.) held Nevertheless, it is to be noted that what-

an established position among the most ever authority the Declaration of Inde-

eminent scholars. In 1867 he was appoint- pendence has acquired in the world, has

ed to the chair of English Literature at been due to no lack of criticism, either at

the University of Michigan, which he the time of its first appearance, or since

occupied until 1881, when he was called then; a fact which seems to tell in favor

to the University of Cornell as Professor of its essential worth and strength. From

of American History. On the subject of the date of its original publication down

criticisms on the Declaration of Indepen- to the present moment, it has been at-

dence he writes: tacked again and again, either in anger

or in contempt, by friends as well as by

It can hardly be doubted that some enemies of the American Revolution, by
hinderance to the right estimate of the liberals in politics as well as by conser-
Declaration of Independence is occa- vatives. It has been censured for its sub-
sioned by either of two opposite condi- stance, it has been censured for its form,
tions of mind, both of which are often to for its misstatements of fact, for its fal-
be met with among us: on the one hand, lacies in reasoning, for its audacious novel-
a condition of hereditary, uncritical awe ties and paradoxes, for its total lack of all
and worship of the American Revolution, novelty, for its repetition of old and
and of that state paper as its absolutely threadbare statements, even for its down-
perfect and glorious expression; on the right plagiarisms; finally for its grandiose
other hand, a later condition of cultivated and vaporing style.

distrust of the Declaration as a piece of One of the earliest and ablest of its
writing lifted up into inordinate renown assailants was Thomas Hutchinson, the
by the passionate and heroic circumstances last civil governor of the colony of Massa-
of its origin, and ever since then extolled chusetts, who, being stranded in London
beyond reason by the blind energy of by the political storm which had blown
patriotic enthusiasm. Turning from the him thither, published there, in the
former state of mind, which obviously autumn of 1776, his Strictures Upon the
calls for no further comment, we may Declaration of the Congress at Phila-
note, as a partial illustration of the latter, delphia, wherein, with an unsurpassed
that American confidence in the supreme knowledge of the origin of the contro-
iritellectual merit of this all-famous docu- versy, and with an unsurpassed acumen
ment received a serious wound from the in the discussion of it, he traverses the
hand of Rufus Choate, when, with a cour- entire document, paragraph by para-
age greater than would now be required graph, for the purpose of showing that

40




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41



DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, CRITICISMS ON THE

its allegations in support of American Philip II. to the people of the Nether-
independence are " false and frivolous." lands.

A better-written, and, upon the whole, This temperate criticism from an able
a more plausible and a more powerful, and a liberal English statesman of the
arraignment of the great declaration was nineteenth century may be said to touch
the celebrated pamphlet by Sir John the veiy core of the problem as to the his-
Dalrymple, The Rights of Great Britain toric justice of our great indictment of
Asserted against the Claims of America: the last King of America; and there is
Being an Answer to the Declaration of deep significance in the fact that this is
the General Congress a pamphlet scat- the very criticism upon the document,
tered broadcast over the world at such a which, as John Adams tells us, he himself
rate that at least eight editions of it had in mind when it was first submitted
were published during the last three or to him in committee, and even when,
four months of the year 1776. Here, shortly afterwards, he advocated its adop-
again, the manifesto of Congress is sub- tion by Congress. After mentioning cer-
jected to a searching examination, in tain things in it with which he was de-
order to prove that "the facts are either lighted, he adds:

wilfully or ignorantly misrepresented, " There were other expressions which I

y,nd the arguments deduced from premises would not have inserted if I had drawn it

that have no foundation in truth." It is up particularly that which called the

doubtful if any disinterested student of King tyrant. I thought this too personal ;

history, any competent judge of reason- for I never believed George to be a tyrant

ing, will now deny to this pamphlet the in disposition and in nature. I always be-

praise of making out a very strong case lieved him to be deceived by his courtiers

against the historical accuracy and the on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his

logical soundness of many parts of the official capacity only cruel. I thought the

Declaration of Independence. expression too passionate, and too much

Undoubtedly, the force of such cen- like scolding, for so grave and solemn a

sures is for us much broken by the fact document; but, as Franklin and Sherman

that they proceeded from men who were were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it

themselves partisans in the Revolutionary would not become me to strike it out. I

controversy, and bitterly hostile to the consented to report it."

whole movement which the declaration A more minute and more poignant criti-

was intended to justify. Such is not the cism of the Declaration of Independence

case, however, with the leading modern has been made in recent years by still

English critics of the same document, another English writer of liberal ten-

who, while blaming in severe terms the dencies, who, however, in his capacity as

policy of the British government towards critic, seems here to labor under the dis-

the thirteen colonies, have also found advantage of having transferred to the

much to abate from the confidence due to document which he undertakes to judge

this official announcement of the reasons much of the extreme dislike which he has

for our secession from the empire. For for the man who w r rote it, whom, indeed,

example, Earl Russell, after frankly he regards as a sophist, as a demagogue,

saying that the great disruption pro- as quite capable of inveracity in speech,

claimed by the Declaration of Indepen- and as bearing some resemblance to Robes-

dence was a result which Great Britain pierre " in his feline nature, his malig-

had " used every means most fitted to nant egotism, and his intense suspicious-

bring about," such as "vacillation in ness, as well as in his bloody-minded, yet

council, harshness in language, feebleness possibly sincere, philanthropy." In the

in execution, disregard of American sym- opinion of Prof. Goldwin Smith, our great

pathies and affections," also pointed out national manifesto is written " in a high-

that "the truth of this memorable decla- ly rhetorical strain"; "it opens with

ration " was " warped " by " one singular sweeping aphorisms about the natural

defect" namely, its exclusive and ex- rights of man, at which political science

cessive arraignment of George III. " as now smiles, and which . . . might seem

a single and despotic tyrant," much like strange when framed for slave-holding

42



DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, CRITICISMS ON THE

communities by a publicist who himself Government." The author of a life of
held slaves " ; while, in its specifications Jefferson, published in the year of Jeffer-
of fact, it " is not more scrupulously son s retirement from the Presidency, sug-
truthful than are the general utterances " gests that the credit of having composed
of the statesman who was its scribe. Its the Declaration of Independence " has
charges that the several offensive acts of been perhaps more generally, than truly,
the King, besides "evincing a design to given by the public" to that great man.
reduce the colonists under absolute Charles Campbell, the historian of Vir-
despotism," " all had as their direct object ginia, intimates that some expressions in
the establishment of an absolute tyranny," the document were taken without ac-
are simply " propositions which history knowlcdgment from Aphra Behn s tragi-
cannot accept." Moreover, the declara- comedy, The Widow-Ranter, or the His-
tion " blinks the fact that many of the tory of Bacon in Virginia. John Stock-
acts, styled steps of usurpation, were ton Littell describes the Declaration of
measures of repression, which, however Independence as " that enduring monu-
unwise or excessive, had been provoked by ment at once of patriotism, and of genius
popular outrage." "No government could and skill in the art of appropriation "-
allow its officers to be assaulted and their asserting that " for the sentiments and
houses sacked, its loyal lieges to be tarred much of the language " of it, Jefferson
and feathered, or the property of mer- was indebted to Chief-Justice Drayton s
chants sailing under its flag to be thrown charge to the grand jury of Charleston,
by lawless hands into the sea." Even delivered in April, 177G, as well as to the
" the preposterous violence and the mani- Declaration of Independence said to have
fest insincerity of the suppressed clause " been adopted by some citizens of Mecklen-
against slavery and the slave-trade " are burg county, X. C., in May, 1775. Even
enough to create suspicion as to the spirit the latest and most critical editor of the
in which the whole document was framed." writings of Jefferson calls attention to

Finally, as has been already intimated, the fact that a glance at the Declaration

not even among Americans themselves has of "Rights, as adopted by Virginia on June;

the Declaration of Independence been per- 12, 1770, "would seem to indicate the

mitted to pass on into the enjoyment of source from which Jefferson derived a

its superb renown without much critical most important and popular part " of his

disparagement at the hands of statesmen famous production. By no one, however,

and historians. No doubt Calhoun had has the charge of a lack of originality

its preamble in mind when he declared been pressed with so much decisiveness

that " nothing can be more unfounded as by John Adams, who took evident

and false " than " the prevalent opinion pleasure in speaking of it as a document

that all men are born free and equal " ; in which were merely " recapitulated "

for " it rests upon the assumption of a previous and well-known statements of

fact which is contrary to universal ob- American rights and wrongs, and who,

servation." Of course, all Americans as late as in the year 1822, deliberately

who have shared to any extent in Cal- wrote :

houn s doctrines respecting human society " There is not an idea in it but what
could hardly fail to agree with him in re- had been hackneyed in Congress for two
garding as fallacious and worthless those years before. The substance of it is con-
general propositions in the declaration tained in the declaration of rights and the
which seem to constitute its logical start- violation of those rights, in the journals
ing-point, as well as its ultimate defence. of Congress, in 1774. Indeed, the essence

Perhaps, however, the most frequent of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted

form of disparagement to which Jeffer- and printed by the town of Boston, before

son s great state paper has been subjected the first Congress met, composed by

among us is that which would minimize James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his



Online LibraryBenson John LossingHarper's encyclopdia of United States history from 458 A.D. to 1905 (Volume 3) → online text (page 6 of 76)