The Declaration of Independence

usa-declaration-header

The Declaration of Independence is the formal proclamation of American independence from England. The Continental Congress agreed and announced the Declaration on July the 4th, 1776.
July the 4th is a national holiday in the USA.

 

“Nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously as an open and determined declaration for independance”, Thomas Paine, Common Sense (feel welcome to my public domain translation into Polish).

 

Feel also welcome to free posters. The public domain website has a portfolio.

 

 

We can read the original print from the Library of Congress.

 

The typescript below renders the original print. The Declaration printer, John Dunlap, used a Caslon font and a print layout that capitalized nominals, that is, nouns and forms to derive from nouns, with big letters.

 

The purpose of the typescript is not correction. No one might correct a historic document. The typescript is to show the print manner of those times. Especially young learners might benefit with clarity on that. The language style of the Declaration of Independence is oratorial; it invokes spoken language.

 

DECLARATION TEXT
(public domain translation by Teresa Pelka, 2016)

 

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 and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

 

HE has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by 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 British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of Attempts by their Legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

 

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 INDPENDENT 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.

 

Signed by ORDER and in BEHALF of the CONGRESS,

JOHN HANCOCK, PRESIDENT.

ATTEST. CHARLES THOMSON, SECRETARY.

PHILADELPHIA : PRINTED BY JOHN DUNLAP.

 

PHILOLOGIST NOTES

 

John Dunlap printed his broadside already on the day of the proclamation, July the 4th 1776. The Philadelphia printer, bookseller, and Revolutionary War soldier, he made about 200 copies. He was evidently well capable of the prevalent print convention of those times, to capitalize nouns, noun phrases, and linguistic forms that derived from nouns. He had very little time to complete the print, however.

 

 

… a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes …
Please compare the “light and transient Causes”.

 

… whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise …

Result of time limitations, as above.

 

… the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within …
We may compare the “mean time” and the adverbial “meanwhile”

 

“Judiciary Powers”, “Standing Armies”, “Civil Powers”, and similar structures are noun phrases that embrace the adjective along with the noun.

 

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the consent of our Legislatures.
We may compare the “Consent of the Governed”, as above in the original. “The Governed” means people, persons. The structure works in language as a noun, hence the capital letter.

 

FOR quartering … protecting … cutting off … imposing …
Gerundive forms are not capitalized, as they derive from verbs. We may compare the verb phrase Petitioned for Redress”: it derives from the noun phrase “Petition for Redress”.

 

… already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy …
Please compare Circumstances of our Emigration”.

 

… constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive …
The phrase refers to the condition of being hostage, prisoner. The word “captive” means “prisoner”, a noun.

 

… whose Character is thus marked by every act …
We may compare Acts of pretended Legislation”, and Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right”.

 

… the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled …
The adjective “assembled” belongs with the phrase “Assembled General Congress”.

 

… solemnly Publish and Declare …
Please compare the comment for the “Petiton for Redress”, above.

 

That these United Colonies …
The Declaration style is oratorial, it relates to spoken language.

 

… . And for the support of this Declaration …
Please mind the time limitations the circumstances imposed on the print.

The print uses the colon the way we mostly use the semi-colon nowadays.

 

THE HANDWRITTEN DOCUMENT

56 Representatives of the 13 states and the Second Congress President signed the engrossed copy of the Declaration. Warren G. Harding, later an American president, coined the phrase “the Founding Fathers”. The phrase became used to mean the Signatories of the Declaration and the Framers of the Constitution.

 

The most prominent signature in the center is that of John Hancock from Massachusetts, the President of the Second Continental Congress.

 

Signatories
SIGNATURES ON THE ENGROSSED COPY
CLICK TO ENLARGE

The desktop view here displays the names of the signatories arranged as in the original document.

 

Georgia

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

Maryland

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Pennsylvania

Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

New York

William Floyd

Philip Livingston

Francis Lewis

Lewis Morris

New Hampshire

Josiah Bartlett

William Whipple

Massachusetts

Samuel Adams

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jun.

Thomas Lynch, Jun.

Arthur Middleton

Virginia

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

 

Delaware

Caesar Rodney

George Read

Thomas McKean

New Jersey

 Richard Stockton

John Witherspoon

Francis Hopkinson

John Hart

Abraham Clark

 

John Adams

Robert Treat Paine

Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island

Stephen Hopkins

William Ellery

Connecticut

Roger Sherman

Samuel Huntington

William Williams

Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire

Matthew Thornton

 

We may know the present-day engrossed copy as the Stone’s engraving of the Declaration of Independence. The copy was not literally incised in stone, yet we can say it is in stone, using a figure of speech.

 

ENGROSSED COPY OF THE DECLARATION
CLICK TO ENLARGE

An 1823 facsimile of the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence

 

The Declaration came after attempts to conciliate with England. The Olive Branch Petition was one of those efforts. Thomas Jefferson wrote the “original rough draught” of the Declaration in June 1776. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were among the text co-editors.

 

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