Friday, July 10, 2020

'Free Trade!'s Begging the Question of Economic Causes - Economic Politics vs Political Economy pt7

If you wonder why I'm skeptical of 'Libertarians' as defenders of Individual Rights and Liberty, it might help to keep in mind that these are many of the same folks who, 1), equate Individual Rights with 'Economic Rights!', and 2), have been eager to - even now - engage in 'Free Trade!' with the captive peoples of Communist China, while knowing that Communism permits no manner of private property, freedom, or liberty, to the very people that they foolishly expect to be engaging in a meaningful form of 'Free Trade!' with. The nature of 'liberty' which such 'libertarians' speak of, is and can extend no deeper into their convictions than a pragmatic interest in 'what works' to their momentary gain, and as the very 'principles!' which they utilize to promote & justify 'Free Trade!' with Communist China, involve 'Economic Rights!' that could just as easily be used to justify both the mobster fencing stolen goods and the customer bargaining for goods they know to be stolen, IMHO their conception of 'rights!' and 'principles!' are visibly divorced from any substantive understanding of, or regard for, either individual rights or for the rule of law, which are necessary pre-requisites for Liberty. Hence my skepticism.

If you think that your own individual rights and liberty to exercise them, would be any more secure with such Libertarian's than would the rights of those people in China and Hong Kong which they so casually disregard and discard in pursuit of a 'free trade!' buck with Communist China (who is a silent 'partner' in every such transaction) - you really should ask yourself why.

Why do I say such a thing as that? Because they exemplify an approach to life that begins with economic thinking, as does Communist China, who finds it useful to permit some possessions & privileges to some of its people, at the moment, and likewise they too see 'property' as a matter of possessions, and 'markets' as but a means of getting what they want because they want it. Sure, 'Free Trade!'rs may differ with Communist China on how to apply their 'economic principles!', but their 'principles!' have the same roots in that strawman which Marx used to sideline the system of natural liberty & judiciary underlying the Free Market which Adam Smith spoke of, and then rebranded that entire system with the materialistic and near meaningless term for a financial strategy: 'Capitalism'. That same economic thinking was also employed in much the same way by the (socialist) J.S. Mill, as he redefined our Founder's vision of Liberty out of existence in the popular mind, in favor of that thoughtless adolescent urge to 'do what you want without restraint!', by means of a steady assault of works best known today from his popular (and contemptible) essay, 'On Liberty'.

One imagines that they tell themselves that their generous willingness to make a buck at the expense of other people's liberty, will bring those people a more prosperous slavery, which will somehow lead their slaveholders to loosen their chains upon them. They do so by ignoring the fact that nowhere in history, has economic prosperity alone succeeded in transforming political systems and tyrannies, into systems which respected the individual rights (or any semblance of the concept) of their own people, or of any other's, and no amount of begging of questions or forgiveness will produce what it lacks.

The bottom line is that people who lack an understanding of what America resulted from, should not be entrusted to care about your individual rights, any further than they can be counted upon to consider the rights of those who're utterly deprived of all individual rights, for that percentage of profits which qualifies in their mind as being 'a good deal'.

Fundamental to the form of 'Free Trade!' espoused by most libertarians, and especially those of the Murray Rothbard ilk (more on that below), is that 'Free Trade!' trades upon the false notion that business & prosperity are what America was founded upon, implicitly trading away the real causes of those effects, essentially arguing in a classic case of 'Begging the Question', that:
"'Free Trade!' has made America prosperous, because America was founded upon 'Free Trade!'"
, a claim which tells you nothing, as it "assumes the initial point", offering it's conclusion, as proof of that conclusion, while actively ignoring the broader cultural causes - a widespread respect for truth, virtue and knowledge within which individual rights could be served & preserved under a rule of law (which is liberty) - which is what preceded and enabled that America, and its prosperity, to result from. One danger of this approach, is that it leads us to presume that we can expect to continue enjoying those effects, without seriously attending to the essential causes of them.

What most Libertarians, and a great many Conservatives, fail to understand, is that an Economy is what follows from the policies that a nation has, and from why it has them. In the end, political thinking that begins with economic thinking, leads a people to forego what is prudent (the best possible application of principle to reality), for what will work pragmatically, at the moment, for the moment. In seeing our economy as something that can somehow exist apart from the Rule of Law - which is what all of our liberty depends upon for being upheld and defended - we've deluded ourselves into seeing 'economic rights' as being equivalent to, and even somehow separate from, those essential individual rights such as are protected under our Bill of Rights, and that one-eyed thinking has been influencing our elections since long before it oozed out into the open with Bill Clinton's 'It's the economy stupid!'.

Our Founder's familiarity with the long track of recorded history in the development of Western Civilization, led them to the revolutionary idea of putting government in service to the liberty of its citizenry, and from that system for upholding and defending the Individual Rights of all of their citizens, prosperity and economic abundance followed in the first imperfect stirrings of a Free Market. Attempting to support or defend that full system based upon economic analysis - whether Left, Right or Libertarian matters little - is doomed to result in... what we are facing right now.

My position, again, is not one of supporting tariffs as economic measures, and in no way do I dispute the merits of Laissez Faire or the Free Market, nor do I in anyway seek to legitimize either economic protectionism or the equally bogus twin concepts of 'Trade Surpluses' & 'Trade Deficits' (I've gone into the details of Individual Rights, the Rule of Law, Free Market & Economics too often before, to rehash again here, see my post on the differences between 'Free Trade!' & Free Market, from last year), I'm simply pointing out that it's only after the proper context of ethical, political, and legal frameworks are firmly in place, that the preconditions of liberty can be met, so that markets can and will be able to experience and enjoy economic prosperity. Once that context is met, there can be no legitimate and informed doubt as to whether a Free Market - whether within a nation, or between nations - will be the most productive and beneficial conditions that can exist. None - not since being informed by the inquiries and theories of Adam Smith, Jean Baptiste Say, and Frédéric Bastiat, followed by the real world results stretching across the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries, soundly demonstrated the truth of their theories in fact (This article thumbnails the issues well). There is not, and cannot be, any beneficial economic justification for tariffs (which, BTW, is not why Trump's threatened to deploy them). None.

My position instead, is that 'Free Trade!' and the Utilitarian philosophy used to justify it, bargains away the ideas which our Founding Father's formed this nation's ideals & government from, in pursuit of the thin appearances of prosperity that are unsustainable without them. In preceding posts I've illustrated how the dropping of important contexts from your consideration through an abbreviated area of focus, transforms once solid principles, into ideological bullet-points, a distortion which leads otherwise intelligent people to argue that the differences between trading with a Westernized ally, and Communist China, is a difference in name only. If the outrageousness of that doesn't hit you, I'll repeat once again that Marx himself asserted that the entirety of his ideology of Communism could be reduced to a single sentence: 'The elimination of Private Property' - how do you 'trade freely' with those who are permitted no private property? Why would you seek to profit by engaging with a nation that is dedicated to eliminating everyone's property and their ability to earn any profit from it at all? How is that not recognized as the complete betrayal of Liberty that it is? That they dare clothe themselves in the name of 'Libertarian', is either a confession of abysmal ignorance, or duplicitousness. Again, hence my skepticism of their ability to defend (let alone identify) liberty.

Such self delusion is only possible to intelligent people by their doing the business of thinking with flawed, if not broken, or even corrupt 'Principles!', thanks to the bad philosophy, or (supposedly) no philosophy at all, which form the seductive ideologies they utilize in place of a philosophy. The active use of such thinking as that, has butchered the remains of what had been the field of Political Economy, into the questionable sausage now known as modern Economics, with the presumption being that we needn't think about matters of philosophy at all, when it comes to 'ordering society' (and there are few things which the Economically minded love to do more than ordering your society), is surprisingly dangerous. According to their calculations, all we need to do is start with the actions and transactions that men act upon in daily life. For the proponents of oppressive govt power, positions such as these are understandable, but for those who think that their aims will enhance and further the cause of liberty, it is just sad. It was bad enough when one of the best of Libertarian economists, Ludwig von Mises, took 'Human Action' as his starting point, but he at least, for the most part confined his thoughts to the realm of economic transactions. Not so with one of his early followers, Murray Rothbard, who took that already abbreviated thought as being sufficient to replace the entirety of ethics and political philosophy with, a statement that he adorably refers to as being a 'principle' or 'axiom', usually referred to as the Non-Aggression Principle,
"THE LIBERTARIAN CREED rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.”"
I'll leave it to a future post to go into detail on the enormity of what is ignored in that statement, but it's worth making a mental note that he begins his thinking on how man should live - which is a statement of ethics which he makes without having first established or identified any system of Ethics at all (!), and without benefit of any of those more fundamental systems of metaphysics, epistemology, etc, which a system of ethics is necessarily derived from, and which would tell you (warn you!) what their proponents will feel very virtuous in doing to you. This takes Begging the Question to a whole new level, one that must drop the jaws of the carboard sign beggars at freeway exits. Rothbard quickly moves downhill from there, denying that Intellectual Property is a defensible right (a position which is incompatible with our Founder's understanding of Property) - a right which IMHO, is the necessary and indispensable root for the recognition and defense of all of our Individual Rights & Property - which freed him to sketch out the ideal of Anarcho-Capitalism, the notion that we don't need laws or government at all, only ever more elaborate business models. Even von Mises called that idiocy out, as being:
"...A shallow-minded school of social philosophers, the anarchists, chose to ignore the matter by suggesting a stateless organization of mankind. They simply passed over the fact that men are not angels. They were too dull to realize that in the short run an individual or a group of individuals can certainly further their own interests at the expense of their own and all other peoples' long-run interests. A society that is not prepared to thwart the attacks of such asocial and short-sighted aggressors is helpless and at the mercy of its least intelligent and most brutal members… They failed to conceive that no system of social cooperation can remove the dilemma between a man's or a group's interests in the short run and those in the long run.."
All of which is to say, that those who speak and behave as if 'Economic Realities' should be the starting point for all political thought and action, are spouting nonsense. One of Rothbard's popular quotations, is
"It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance."
Which, as usual, is true... as far as it goes... but in not going far enough while presuming that it does, it's application distorts the larger truth into falsehood. Hopefully I'm not the first to reply to that, in that:
"It's no crime to be ignorant of philosophy, it is, after all, concerned with everything which most people think of as being 'boring'. But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion upon philosophical issues such as Ethics, Law, Individual Rights and the like while remaining ignorant to the fact that economic theories sprang from the depths of philosophy, and not the other way around."
All of that is important to keep in mind when considering the 'Free Trade!''rs positions on international trade, where a large number of their 'thought leaders' believe that there should be no governments at all (though many do bizarrely desire an international body of a WTO), and so, with economic transactions being the starting point for their thinking - that mythical idea of a stateless world is the Utopia they seek.

In a similarly rootless fashion, most of the Truisms that are thrown out by defenders of 'Free Trade!' as if they were 'Principles!' (Liberty, Trade, Say's Law of Markets, Money), are but an uprooted string of words that they arbitrarily designate as 'principles' (rather than generalized truths derived from and validated by contextual experience, they assert in the spirit of Kantian Imperatives, that what they can't imagine as not being so, must be so). They pluck terms from the pioneering figures of Smith, Say, Bastiat, and more, who were formative in developing the understanding of what Political Economy (note the inclusion of both words) was, and use them without regard for the context that they were derived from, effectively castrating them of their actual meaning - a factor which is essential for their being mouthed and applied in the modern enthusiasms of 'Economics' (usefully reduced to only one word).

The real world consequences of this, is that they behave as if the pre-conditions for a Free Market have been met simply by acting on the desire to trade, which they see as justification and permission enough for trading with a nation that is devoted to the elimination of Private Property, along with all of the Individual Rights which are secured by that property, and which can only serve to undermine Liberty, and the Free Market, and Free Trade, and it will do so for all concerned ( and if you're considering casting a vote for the 'Libertarian Party' this November, please, give more consideration to that first).

Liberty In Name Only
Further illustrating (IMHO) the contexts that are being dropped in these issues, my Libertarian friend Duane, replied to my comments on the shortcomings of 'Free Trade!', with a link to a post in which an editor had taken an old Milton Friedman post from the 1980's, on trade issues between America & Japan, and concluded that in order to equalize the difference between that issue with an ally, and our current situation with a cold enemy today, requires only replacing a few random words:
"...I’ve taken the liberty of modifying and updating Friedman’s op-ed slightly by substituting China for Japan in order to reflect the “favorite whipping boy” of today’s protectionists. And I’ve also updated the last paragraph to reflect today’s favored domestic industries being artificially protected from competition with Trump’s tariffs..."
Demonstrating an astounding naivete, this author felt that the most essential and relevant differences to be found between the rival allies of America & Japan interacting within a shared (semi) Free Market, and our dealings with the lethal enemy to any form of a Free Market that Communism by definition is, and always has been, amount to nothing more than differences in name only.

That left me speechless, and I let the thread go cold. But it's been on my mind ever since... and led to this series of posts.

For someone to imagine that the relations between 20th Century Japan & America, or even those of the19th Century France & England in which Bastiat & Cobden first exposed the fallacies of economic protectionism (which were, military rivalries aside, still being conducted between broadly culturally and ethically likeminded nations), to imagine that either of those conflicts could bear any truly meaningful resemblance to the truly insurmountable differences - culturally, ethically, politically, legally, economically - which most definitely do exist and define the current conflicts between Communist China & America, is at best an example of philosophical & political Dunning–Kruger'ism

That doesn't describe Milton Friedman, as although he gave much economic advice to communists and dictators - including Communist China - he did so mostly on what the failings of their systems were, and why, and how, they should aim towards liberalizing (in the good sense of expanding the liberty of their peoples) their society's economies. And as I noted in the previous post, Friedman, page 57 (pg. 49 in the original paperback) of his book "Free to choose"', thought that the notion that market forces could triumph over the forces of a Communist government, were foolishly optimistic, and on top of that, even between trading partners, the root requirement of a Free Market economy requires that, as he wrote in reference to his book "Capitalism and Freedom" (1962), for a New York Times Magazine article in 1970, was:
"...There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud."[emphasis mine]
One thing that most definitely cannot be said about Communist China, is that they engage 'in open and free competition without deception or fraud', and those lesser figures who've followed after him have largely lacked that sensibility. Given that and all else that it takes no notice of, this 'updated' post cannot directly answer questions about the 'economic realities' we currently face - too much of reality has been filtered out from the very start - but... by way of noting what it doesn't say, it may still manage to convey something of the dangerously naïve evaluations which Libertarian 'Free Trade!'rs view our 'relationship' with Communist China as being today. Just try to remember to keep in mind what they are not considering in statements such as (Milton, avert your eyes) this:
"...The proponents of protectionism say,
“Free trade is fine in theory but it must be reciprocal. We cannot open our markets to foreign products if foreigners close their markets to us.” China, they argue, to use their favorite whipping boy, “keeps her vast internal market for the private domain of Chinese industry but then pushes her products into the U.S. market and complains when we try to prevent this unfair tactic.”
The argument sounds reasonable. It is, in fact, utter nonsense. Exports are the cost of trade, imports the return from trade, not the other way around...."
The sort of protectionism which Friedman himself was actually rightfully criticizing Japan and America about at the time, were for the most part the foolish policies of both parties, and without merit. But to Trump's credit, as noted previously, that isn't what he's been practicing, and (making allowances for his mercenary use & abuse of soundbite language), what he's been doing has been to use the political threat of tariffs and the like, not as Economic Measures meant to produce economic benefits - which is what actual Protectionism aims at - but as a Political Means of inducing other nations to reduce or drop their tariffs, with Trump's promise to follow in like fashion so long as they 'make a deal' with him, for the purpose of creating at least a somewhat freer market for all, from which economic benefits will follow from - but as effects, not causes.

That is not making an argument that protectionism is a valid economic policy, but only that tariffs can be selectively deployed as an effective political means of bringing about freer economic conditions, and while we'll need to wait for the future to know how successfully they turn out, for the present that's not the point.

Again, Free Trade, conducted within the structures of a Free Market is the best economic policy, but actual Free Trade requires the legal infrastructure of a Free Market to operate within, and a Free Market is the result of a government's political policies which form a strong Rule of Law oriented around the defense of the individual rights and property of that nation's citizens (which is what 'Free Trade!'rs ignore). If you say that economic concerns should take priority over those political and ethical philosophies which are what an economy results from, you do so by undermining both the Free Market and Liberty, in an insane pursuit of a nebulous 'Free Trade!', and to that begging of the question, I say again... no sale.

If, however, in response to the unjustified injection of power into the market, you propose to respond with tariffs as a political means of persuading the other nation to curb their unjustifiably abusive policies, knowing that it will likely incur some damage and risk to your own people (as any confrontation or war necessarily entails), for the wider purpose of ending, or reducing, those unjustified measures, then that is a policy that a justifiable political argument can be made for.

Protectionist policies of the 1980's were the particular point of friction in the original matter that Milton Friedman himself was actually writing about, but to think that those are the defining points of contention between America and China today, is... embarrassingly ignorant, and is an oversight of the magnitude that I'd like to think (perhaps mistakenly) that Milton Friedman himself wouldn't have committed.

When Japan in the 1980's sought to keep 'her vast internal market for the private domain', it harmed only its own people. Japan was unwisely subsidizing its markets at the time (steel for instance), thinking that that was the path to economic success. The proper response then, as now, in similar contexts, should be to engage with them where they may, and let them freely choose the loss of wealth their convictions seem to them to warrant. And as Japan eventually discovered, those policies were unwise, unproductive, and they ultimately economically cost them to such a degree that they have still yet to fully recover from.

But those economic conflicts were conducted between nations that were allied within a shared political context of Western (or at least Westernized) systems.

That is in no way the case in our current situation with Communist China today, and as such we are not pursuing the same 'bankrupt protectionist arguments' that were being pursued between Western allies in the 1980's. To apply Friedman's points which were made with those contexts in mind, to our situation in dealing with a hostile communist nation which is actively committed to our collapse and elimination from the world stage today, reveals the fantasy world of Libertarianism, and their own procrustean commitment to forcing economic thinking into the safe space of their own ideological box.

Taking those arguments out of the context of the 1980's, as this re-writer does, evades and hides what Communist China is doing today with the wealth which the rest of the world has so foolishly allowed them to 'compete' for, and which it has further criminally extracted from their own people. To those ends Communist China is and has been actively pursuing the theft of intellectual property, it blatantly engages in corporate and governmental espionage, their profits from 'free trade!' have enabled the abuse of their own people's lives and rights, have empowered its military encroachment and economic sabotage of those it engages in 'trade' with, and has directed their plunder into markets in competition with American industry, not in a misguided attempt to improve processes and quality so to achieve economic supremacy through actual competition, but for the purposes of achieving military and political supremacy over America and the West. Aims which, if successful, will have dire consequences not only for America, but for the existence of any Free Markets anywhere in the world. To treat that as being nothing more than an 'economic issue', is insanity on the level of lobbying to sell the proverbial hangmen the rope to hang you with.

In the quote above from the faux 'Friedman' post, the author casually repositions the comment that (Communist) 'China' "...pushes her products into the U.S. market...", what do you suppose is meant here by 'pushes'? It's finally a good choice of words, in that it at least implies using force. In Milton's original formulation, it referred to something more like someone pushing you in line outside of a store, to offer you a product for less "Psst! Hey bud, wanna sweet deal on this authentic Rolex watch?", whereas in this reformulation it seeks to avoid acknowledging that it means something more like the action of a thug pushing their way into your store to undersell your clients, at your own counter, with products made from designs stolen from you, and made with money stolen from your own cash register, with the intention of physically pushing your store out of the market and out of business altogether.

Is that latter description of being 'pushed', in any way compatible with trading freely in any market? Ask yourself,
  • Would you view such actions as economic actions?
  • Would you think such actions were being taken only for monetary gain?
  • If you were subjected to such treatment, would you be more likely to attempt resolving that by calling an economics professor, or the police?
To assume that the actions of a state, especially one as lawless as Communist China, whose policies of societal injustice denies and abuses the individual rights of its own people as a matter of course in its pursuit of geo-political dominance, to assume that they are being driven by economic motives alone, rather than by malicious political and geo-political ones, is an assumption which, being that it is naïve beyond belief, should cause us to have more than a few doubts and cautions about those who give them the benefit of the doubt.

The Protectionist Nature of 'Free Trade!'
Should a nation such as ours, ignore the actions of such a nation as Communist China, as it targets some of our citizens, or the industries which some of our citizens are employed in? Should our nation's first concern be with the secondary economic results of it being what it is, or should we instead be concerned with its primary purpose of upholding and defending the Individual Rights and Property of its citizens (which is what shapes and makes its economy possible)?

Oddly enough for 'Free Trade!' libertarians who fancy themselves as being uber-individualists, there's more than a tinge of collectivism in the thinking behind their preferred response of '...unilateral, unrestricted, free trade...'. Take note that in response to the direct criminal actions taken by a foreign power against individual Americans and their businesses, the 'Free Trade!'.rs impulse isn't to defend the property in their rights of those being wronged, but is instead to ignore those wrongs in order to protect the collective national output (GDP).

Note: These supposedly 'liberty' minded folk are not defending the productive rights of another nation's people, but are instead defending actions that have been orchestrated by an abusive foreign power that is targeting productive individuals in another nation, so as to cause real harm to the entire nation (and indeed to the world), by a power that is dedicated to the eradication of the individual rights and property of all peoples.

The call to do nothing in response to such deliberately provocative actions, in the name of 'free trade!', is not a means of promoting the right of individuals to trade in a Free Market, it is itself an exceedingly craven form of protectionism, protecting the flow of money into the collective economy (GDP), at the expense of the rights and property of those individuals who make up that economy. That, my dear Libertarian friends, is collectivism and protectionism, all wrapped up in garish bows of gilded 'Principles!' and 'Free Trade!'. Though no doubt they do so, for the 'greater good'.

In Friedman's "Free to Choose", he had a proposed amendment in it:
"Amendment on Free Trade – The right of individuals to acquire and sell legitimate goods and services on mutually acceptable terms shall not be infringed by Congress or any of the states."
Whatever it was that Milton Friedman originally had in mind as 'legitimate', do you consider such actions by a Communist government, to be offering 'Legitimate goods and services' for trade? IMHO, just as the police take measures to limit and shutdown the 'free trade' in stolen goods in their own cities, so too should our government act in regards to 'deals' proposed by a government such as that of Communist China.

A just Govt must first look to upholding and defending the individual rights and property of its own people, as individuals, and not sacrifice them, or pretend not to notice their being abused by external powers. We do not have a shared judicial system between nation states, there cannot be one at the level of such state actors, but we do have the power to penalize identifiable transgressions against us, and we should at the very least do so by political means such as targeted tariffs (though I'd prefer severing any and all engagement with any and all communist nations), and by very publicly submitting such causes 'to a candid world'.

For any group, let alone one which claims to care about Liberty, to oppose the prudent use of power by a legitimate nation (one that upholds and defends individuals rights and property in their rights) to defend its citizens from the deliberate and criminal targeting of them, or some portion of them by any political power, foreign or domestic, is unconscionable. To advocate for doing nothing in the face of such actions, in order to enjoy a statistical increase of economic wealth for 'all' (excepting of course those who are being targeted by that foreign power(s)), is a false, foolish, and fragrantly corrupt motive, which betrays a tendency towards fiscal collectivism, economic protectionism, and craven acquiescence to appeasement on a massive scale. Such notions can be called 'principled' only by those who've never learned what Principles are.

So long as economic competition is conducted within the range of a just regard to individual rights, then all is well. But when force is inserted into the market on a national scale, it cannot be ignored without making matters worse, economically, and politically. A legitimate nation exists to serve its primary purpose - upholding and defending its people's individual rights & property - and a nation that is great, does not sacrifice its primary purpose, to the pleasures and conveniences of some secondary financial benefits of the passing moment, benefits which can only result in the first place, from that nation effectively carrying out its primary purpose. To advocate doing so is nothing but disgraceful... hence my skepticism towards advocates of 'Free Trade!'.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Calvin Coolidge, Thomas Jefferson, James Otis, and remembering how dependent our Constitution & America is, upon our understanding of our Declaration of Independence!

Before getting to my annual reposting of Calvin Coolidge's speech on the Inspiration of our Declaration of Independence, and to the Declaration itself, I want to first point out that our independence wasn't begun on July 4th 1776, that was simply the end of the beginning. And in what seems more terrifyingly clear to me this year of 2020, more than any previous one in my memory, is how central to America that the Declaration of Independence is, and to there being Americans in it, and for either of those to continue on for long into the future.

I'm not talking about each person having a copy of it - the document itself is meaningless and useless without a people who understand it. The Declaration of Independence only came into being in the first place, because there was a people along the eastern seaboard who understood its meaning well before it was written. Thomas Jefferson later commented that he made no attempt to be innovative or 'revolutionary' when writing it, but only that he intended it "... to be an expression of the American mind..." - is it an expression of yours?

John Adams, in the first quotation below, recalled that in his opinion the American Revolution actually began in 1761, when James Otis spoke against the 'Writs of Assistance' to an assembled crowd, calling out a wealth of classical allusions and a sweeping summation of history and of legal gems, which roused all of his listeners through a torrent of eloquence so profound that Adams thought it had sparked the revolution 'then and there'. Otis too expressed only the common content and passions of "the American mind", and so I ask you, if a new James Otis were to speak to us like that today, how many people living here in America would recognize any of what he summarized or recognize why it was important? Would those modern listeners be more likely to be moved by his eloquence... or to shrug it away with a texted 'TLDR' ('Too Long Didn't Read')?

How likely is it that we can long have either America or Americans in it, without the Declaration of Independence being both known and understood by at least a majority of them? And how well can it be understood by a people who've been 'educated' out of any familiarity with that history, its important ideas, and a perspective that values profound truths eloquently expressed?

Don't bother muttering against our schools, they have dropped the ball, intentionally, and they cannot be looked to for help in picking it back up. It's you who needs to do this, beginning with yourself, and counting on no one else to fill the contents of your own mind with what it has until now lacked. The internet is open to you, and I've provide the links you need here to get started. You and no one else are responsible, for America continuing to be populated with Americans... or at least with one (who can then tell another).

July 4th 1776, was the end of the beginning of America's Independence, it's up to you to ensure that July 4th 2020 isn't the beginning of its end. And to ensure that... you need to start back at the beginning. And where our independence began, according to a fellow that was in attendance at both events, John Adams, was when James Otis spoke against King George's 'Writs of Assistance' back in 1761, which as Adams recalled it,
",,,But Otis was a flame of fire! With a promptitude of Classical Allusions, a depth of research, a rapid summary of historical events & dates, a profusion of Legal Authorities, a prophetic glance of his eyes into futurity, and a rapid torrent of impetuous Eloquence he hurried away all before him. American Independence was then & there born. The seeds of Patriots & Heroes to defend the Non sine Diis Animosus Infans; to defend the Vigorous Youth were then & there sown. Every Man of an immense crouded Audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take Arms against Writs of Assistants. Then and there was the first scene of the first Act of opposition to the Arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the Child Independence was born. In fifteen years i.e. in 1776. he grew up to Manhood, & declared himself free.,,,"[emphasis mine]
I point that out, because it underlines the importance of what is perhaps most remarkable about what the Declaration of Independence's author, Thomas Jefferson, considered to be the least remarkable aspect of it - that he intended the Declaration as an expression of ideas that were familiar and commonly understood, by the majority of Americans, of that time, as Jefferson wrote to a friend in later years, about what it was meant to accomplish:
"Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c..."
That is why we are unique in the annals of human history, as being a nation founded upon ideas (those twits mouthing on about 'inherent American anti-intellectualism' can kiss my patriotic ass). And those common ideas, and their influence, continued to serve as strong guides for the later creation of our Constitution, can be easily found in even a cursory reading, between the charges of the Declaration of Independence against King George, and their reflection in our Constitution and the amendments to it, and ...
"To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World."
"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."
"HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries."
  • The first three articles of our Constitution, divides Govt into three branches, which prevent any one person or wing from attaining a monopoly of power over the others.
"HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance."
  • This is what our Constitution was expressly designed to forbid, which unfortunately is what the pro-regressive Administrative State, was erected upon it to encourage (as was our politically instituted educational system) - proof that Laws that do not live in the hearts and minds of the people, cannot protect them against themselves
"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."
  • Congress has control of organizing and funding the military budget, and while the Executive has command of the military, he can not do much, for long, without the further consent of the people's representatives, and in all ways, the military is under civil control.
"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"
, and if you take the time to read both, you will find many, many, more points of harmony between the two.

But enough, onto Calvin Coolidge's speech, and a happy Independence Day to you all!

The Inspiration of the Declaration of Independence
Given in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 5, 1926:

President Calvin Coolidge
We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human
experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.

It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.

It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.

It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.

We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them. The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.

While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.

This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.

It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.

It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.

The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.

But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Rev. Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that:
The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people

The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance.

This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Rev. John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church's Quarrel Espoused," in 1710 which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.

While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.

That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent". It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man". Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth . . . ." And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine". And still again, "Democracy is Christ's government in church and state". Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.

When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."

No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.

Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.

If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

We are too prone to overlook another conclusion. Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.

About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

In the development of its institutions America can fairly claim that it has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. In all the essentials we have achieved an equality which was never possessed by any other people. Even in the less important matter of material possessions we have secured a wider and wider distribution of wealth. The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate. If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self government; the right of the people to rule. If there is any failure in respect to any of these principles, it is because there is a failure on the part of individuals to observe them. We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that "Democracy is Christ's government". The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.

On an occasion like this a great temptation exists to present evidence of the practical success of our form of democratic republic at home and the ever broadening acceptance it is securing abroad. Although these things are well known, their frequent consideration is an encouragement and an inspiration. But it is not results and effects so much as sources and causes that I believe it is even more necessary constantly to contemplate. Ours is a government of the people. It represents their will. Its officers may sometimes go astray, but that is not a reason for criticizing the principles of our institutions. The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.

It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. They undertook the balance these interests against each other and provide the three separate independent branches, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial departments of the Government, with checks against each other in order that neither one might encroach upon the other. These are our guaranties of liberty. As a result of these methods enterprise has been duly protected from confiscation, the people have been free from oppression, and there has been an ever broadening and deepening of the humanities of life.

Under a system of popular government there will always be those who will seek for political preferment by clamoring for reform. While there is very little of this which is not sincere, there is a large portion that is not well informed. In my opinion very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes. We do need a better understanding and comprehension of them and a better knowledge of the foundations of government in general. Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought. Their intellectual life centered around the meeting-house. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live. While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.

No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.

Happy Independence Day America! **************************

In Congress, July 4, 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 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 shewn, 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 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. 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 dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured 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 harrass 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 compleat 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.
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 attentions to our Brittish 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.
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 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.

Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

John Hancock
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire
Matthew Thornton