We all know (or at least, should know) the words in the founding document of our great nation. But what do they mean? After all, the phrasing and terminology in the Declaration of Independence is undoubtedly mid-18th Century. To often today, words like “endowed” carry a different meaning than when Thomas Jefferson penned them. So here’s a 21st Century Translation. I hope you enjoy!
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The Unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America
Throughout history, sometimes one group of people decide enough is enough and are ready to form their own country. When that happens, it’s only fair that the new country explain why it’s taking such a drastic step.
There are some things that are so obvious even a moron should understand them. For instance, everyone is equal in the eyes of God, Who has given us rights that no government can deny; these include such basics as living and breathing, the freedom to think, speak, worship and associate as we please, and the chance to find happiness. People create governments to safeguard these rights, but when that government either stops protecting their God-given rights, or actually works to prohibit their exercise, the people reserve the ability to get rid of it and replace it with a government that is dedicated to maintaining those rights. That’s a dramatic step, of course, and should only be done as a last resort. After all, people have shown tremendous resiliency despite suffering at the hands of unresponsive governments. But things have gotten out of hand. We’re being ruled by a dictator; one who’s been screwing with us for a long time already. It is our duty to get rid of him and his government and put in place one that will look after our safety and security, both now and in the future. Before you judge our actions too harshly, let us prove the ways the British king is ruling by tyranny:
We pass laws for the public good, he refuses to allow either us or his own governors to implement them.
In exchange for actually doing his job (you know, ruling), he demands we give up our right to legislative representation.
When he actually does allow the people’s legislature to meet, it’s only at such oddball times and in such out of the way places as to make getting a quorum impossible.
Because our legislatures dare oppose the king’s usurpation’s of our rights, he keeps closing them down. Then, he refuses to allow a new legislature to be elected – even if that means nobody has any idea who’s in charge.
He’s even gone so far as to actively work to depopulate our States and then refuse to allow new people to settle here.
He’s refused to allow us to set up courts and judges for trying criminals. Instead, he’s put his cronies on the judicial bench and their only concern is whatever he tells them to do.
He’s ballooned the bureaucracy, with the express purpose of harassing us to the point of insanity.
The King has stationed a large standing army among our civilian population, even though we are supposedly at peace. This army is not subject to civilian authority and can even override decisions made by civilian authority. As if that wasn’t enough, his army can take over any citizen’s house for their own use, and he’s given it free reign to murder anyone with impunity. Oh, he claims his murderous soldiers are held to account. But it’s always a sham trial, with a king-appointed judge finding the offending soldier innocent.
He refuses to let us buy or sell any goods beyond our own borders.
He imposes new taxes and raises old ones, without regard to whether we can pay them and without even asking us first.
He seizes dissidents and takes them to Great Britain, to be sentenced in sham trials.
He’s dissolved our local state governments, abolished our laws and instituted absolute rule in our communities.
He’s declared war on us, his own subjects and said we are no longer protected by his absolute power and authority.
He’s plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people.
Even now, he is sending huge mercenary armies to kill and maim us, rape our women and act with all the cruelty imagined by man over the centuries, establishing a reign of terror totally unbecoming a civilized ruler.
He’s even forced our citizens to fight in his armies and navies against their families and friends, under pain of death. He’s also sent the merciless Indians to utterly destroy our frontier outposts, killing everyone they come across, be they man, woman, or child, even if disabled.
Even while we’ve been subjected to this level of oppression, we’ve tried to reason with the king. But every time we’ve asked him to put an end to this madness, his response has been to escalate the torture, murder and repression further. A tyrant like this king simply isn’t fit to be anyone’s leader.
We’ve also tried to reach out to the British people. After all, we are supposed to be fellow citizens of the Empire. We’ve tried explaining to them that the actions taken by the king are not in keeping with our shared traditions, or English common law, but they seem to neither care nor consider us brothers. This leaves us no choice but to recognize them as a foreign people, and as with all foreigners, they will be our enemies in war and our friends in peace.
Therefore, this Congress, the duly elected representatives of the People of these former British colonies, with the moral authority given us by God himself, declare that we are no longer colonies. We are free and independent States, as granted by God. We no longer have any allegiance to the British crown, nor do we recognize any political or military authority of Great Britain over our territories or lives. As free and independent states, we reserve the ability to declare wars, levy taxes, create alliances, establish trade and do all those things any independent state can do. So help us God, we swear this Declaration on our honor, understanding that in so doing we may forfeit our lives and our fortunes.