CONSTITUTION CORNER - Article
The Declaration of Independence
Before the writing of The Declaration of Independence, in 1744 the Continental Congress petitioned England's King George III, asking for a repeal of "intolerable acts," such as: taxation without representation (in the British Parliament); property seized without consent (search and seizure); and abolishment of trial by jury (being at the absolute mercy of the British forces in North America). At the time of the writing and submission of their petition, the members of the Continental Congress were intent upon presenting themselves as loyal subjects to King George however, the King ignored and vetoed their petition and, while warning them that the 13 colonies were subject to the laws of England and must abide by them.
"Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. - Thomas Jefferson
Or, as Captain Levi Preston, of North Carolina, more plainly expressed in an interview after the Revolutionary War: "Son, them Red Coats meant to govern us. When we went out to face them that day, we meant only one thing; we had always governed ourselves and we always meant to. And, them Red Coats meant we shouldn't."
With requests by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and other Founders, Thomas Jefferson began to write The Declaration of Independence: "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, most notably: "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."
Abraham Lincoln said: "I have never had a feeling, politically, that did not spring from the Declaration of Independence." And, as his White House Secretary, John Nicolay, confirmed: "Lincoln considered the Declaration of Independence his political chart and inspiration."
So, let's begin our own study of America's Founding Documents with the Declaration of Independence. Note: Rather than reprint entire documents, we invite you to read along in your personal document copies, as we highlight salient passages.
Join us for the next Constitution Corner installment on your WOW web site, March 3, 2017.