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“We hold these truths…” The Declaration of Independence

declaration of independenceThe Declaration of Independence was written to celebrate our breaking away from the Kingdom of Great Britain on July 4, in 1776, some 242 years ago.

The opening of the second paragraph is perhaps best known:

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. (Read the full text here.)

The Declaration of Independence left out some folks

It’s a pretty good document. The gaps and misunderstandings can be forgiven as long as we don’t continue to perpetuate them. Consider:

They were not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, they were absent in the Constitution and they were invisible in the new political democracy. They were the women of early America. ~Howard Zinn

Zinn could have included blacks, Native American’s and any other person of color.

Although a slave owner himself, Thomas Jefferson proposed adding an attack on slavery, which stated in part:

Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he (England’s King George) has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.

This effort kicked off what may be the first recorded debate about slavery in the United States. It was defeated. You can read more about this debate at BlackPast.org Of course, people of color were not considered equal or of having unalienable rights, or many rights at all.

The right to alter or abolish destructive government

I’ve also grown fond of:

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…

It was Thomas Jefferson who also said:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Words are indeed powerful

Those who write the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution as well as many other writings from the same period had a way with words. They recognized that both the written and spoken word could fire the imagination and move the arc of history toward love,  freedom, and justice. (With a deep bow of respect to Thomas Parker and Martin Luther King.)

My wish for you this holiday is to never lose sight of the power of words to both heal and hurt.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer




{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Thanks for giving great kind of information. So useful and practical for me. Thanks for your excellent blog, nice work keep it up thanks for sharing the knowledge.

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