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and making war against us," is a simple application of the theory of the feudal law, which presumed that the allegiance of the vassal was always conditional on the protection of the lord. These are the only general propositions of the declaration. The form of its particular accusations of the English sovereign will be readily perceived by those who have attentively observed the clauses of the Petition of Right and of the Bill of Rights, to have been borrowed from those documents. The writer of the Declaration bad but an old tale to repeat. The story of the colonies was the old story of usurpation and resistance told in the history of every people which has ever aimed at the achievement of a system of free government. He made no attempt to make it striking by exaggeration or by introducing new features. Setting out with a few general propositions—which he modestly describes as “self-evident truths,” but which had never, not even in Locke, been rendered evident but by a labored demonstration, till the wonderful simplicity of their enunciation in the Declaration made them axiomatic-he proceeds to tell in language the most simple and direct the tyrannous usurpations of the sovereign, the forbearance of the people, and their final and irrevocable judgment that they were absolved from his allegiance; appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world to attest the righteousness of their cause and the rectitude of their intentions. In the matter of the Declaration of Independence there is no new principle for the profound student; but its manner is so exquisitely fitted to the subject, so striking in its plain, manly directness, and so touching from the total want of affectation in its style, that it persuades at once the reason and the heart as no display of ostentatious rhetoric or labored argument could possibly persuade. Never was such a tale so well told.
As to its effect, the Declaration of Independence was in the strictest sense a declaration. It wrought no change in the political status of the States. It simply declared that the usurpations of the sovereign had already brought about a change, by which, from being colonies of England, they had become free and independent States. It did not make them free. Their ancestors, the original colonists, were free-born Englishmen, and had transmitted their rights and liberties undiminished to their children. Magna Charta had ever been the fundamental law in the colonies; and their code was always the equitable code of English common law. The Revolution, therefore, was not undertaken to obtain, but to maintain their freedom :—not because they were not freemen, but because a tyrannous attempt was made to make them slaves. When they became independent they were no more free than they and their fathers had always been. Magna Charta and the English common laws were still theirs, as they are still ours; for, having been the fundamental law in every colony, they still remained supreme when the colonies became States; and never yet having been abrogated, they are still the fundamental law in almost every American State. The Declaration, then, neither made the States free, nor condescended to prove their right to freedom. It simply declared the fact. In like manner, the Declaration did not make them independent. It proclaimed that they were already independent. Their sovereign, by the abuse of a sovereignty lawfully acquired, had given them the right of rebellion and revolution against him; so that they were now justified in rejecting his sovereignty and in achieving their independence by force of arms. But it is not the right to achieve independence that is asserted by the Declaration. It is the fact of actual existing independence. And this assertion was based both on law and on fact. On law, because the king of England had declared them "out of his protection,” and as the object of government is protection, his renunciation of the duties was an abdication of the right of sovereignty. On fact, because the royal authority bad ceased to exist de facto in the colonies, and was sustained only within the lines and posts of his invading army. The Declaration, however, rests its assertion of the independence of the States only on the ground of right under the law of nature and of nations. A government, however legitimate in its authority and righteous in its acts, might have been temporarily overthrown by a turbulent people, and the colonial governments might in this way have been independent de facto though not de jure. The declaration of the independence of the States is therefore wisely made, not on the ground that they had been apparently successful in rebellion against their sovereign, but that their sovereign had forfeited his sovereignty by a repudiation of its obligations, and, by thus leaving them without a sovereign, had forced them, without any act of theirs, into a position of complete independence. The whole legal effect, then, of the Declaration of Independence was to proclaim to the world the fact--and the cause which had produced the fact—that “these United Colonies were and of right ought to be, free and independent States."
The true grandeur of the Declaration is the courage which dared to assume so bold a position, in defiance of so mighty an empire as that of England. That thirteen petty colonies, scattered over half a continent, and with an average population of less than 230,000 inhabitants, should exact the last letter of the bond of civilized society from an empire on whose victorious arms the sun shines through his whole diurnal revolution, was an act whose character could only be discriminated after the event as one of matchless folly or of matchless heroism. Measured by ordinary rules, it was in the last degree rash and imprudent; but the colonists were not guided by those ordinary rules which measure everything by circumstances. They were guided by the rules of heroes, measuring their difficulties by the greatness of their own souls. It is this heroic magnanimity, nowhere expressed but everywhere apparent in the Declaration of Independence, that has made it for all coming time the model and the hope of struggling and oppressed mankind. IN CONGRESS, July 4th, 1776.
THE UNANIMOUS DECLARATION OF THE THIRTEEN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; 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 a 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. 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 accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotisin, 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. 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.
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 danger of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose, obstruoting the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration 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.