In 1989, a bargain hunter purchased a frayed painting at a flea market for $4. You can imagine his surprise when the shopper later discovered an old copy of the Declaration of Independence tucked away between the canvas and the frame. But his surprise didn’t stop there. As it turned out, the find was one of only 200 official copies made at the first printing of the Declaration of Independence.
This copy of our nation’s most iconic document was one of only twenty-five copies known to exist. The flea market purchase proved to be a bargain only dreamed about. The lucky bargain hunter sold his copy of the Declaration at an auction for $8.14 million!
Most school children, at least until recently, learned the first part of preamble of the Declaration at some point in their education.
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 inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
Unfortunately, few today (including adults) really know why the Founding Fathers made such a Declaration or what they declared. The last seventy-five years of progressive education has tended to emphasize “taxation without representation” as the reason for the founding of a new nation. In truth, the Declaration of Independence listed twenty-seven reasons, and taxation is not even mentioned until number seventeen.
The 27 Reasons for Making a Declaration
- 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 meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
- He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing 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.
- He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
- He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
- He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
- 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 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 offenses.
- For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring 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 in 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, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
- He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
- He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
- He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Thomas Jefferson’s brilliant document outlined the abuses of King George III as follows:
- Establishment of a tyrannical authority in place of representative government (Reasons 1-12).
- Involvement of parliament in destroying the colonists’ right to self-rule (Reasons 13 – 22).
- Specific actions that the King of Great Britain took to abandon the colonies and to wage war against them (Reasons 23 – 27).
The foundational principle of the Declaration was that colonists, as British citizens, were entitled to the rights and privileges granted by the Magna Carta and the British Bill of Rights of 1689. Those documents established that the King was not above the law, and that the people (represented in parliament) had a right to endorse or reject taxation. Another seminal right drawn from the Magna Carta was the right of citizens to trial by jury of their peers.
Our Declaration also called attention to historical precedent. Most British colonies were afforded self-rule and had been governed through their own legislative bodies since their founding. By 1774, however, most of the colonists found themselves without any representation whatsoever, in Parliament or in any colonial house of representation.
The men that signed the Declaration of Independence were far removed from the radicals we see today squatting in public places in New York City and elsewhere. All but two were husbands and fathers. Most were men of education and high standing in their communities. The great majority had much more to lose from a revolution than to gain. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head.
Ben Franklin matter-of-factly noted: “Indeed we must all hang together; otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: “With me it will all be over in a minute, but you, you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.”
When Richard Henry Lee, delegate from Virginia, introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776, he concluded with these words.
“Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost. If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”
©2011 Off the Grid News