-Introduction

Guest Essayist: The Honorable Michael Warren, Presiding Judge, General Civil/Criminal Division of the 6th Circuit Court, Oakland County, Michigan

-History of the Magna Carta and Its Influence on the Declaration of Independence

-Influence of the Declaration of Independence on the United States Constitution

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

Preamble and Founding Principles of the Declaration of Independence

-Necessity of Dissolving Political Bands
“IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, 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,”

-Laws Of Nature and of Nature’s God
“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.”

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

-All Men Are Created Equal
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,”

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

-Endowed by Their Creator, Unalienable Rights and the Importance of “Among” Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—”

Guest Essayist: Gary Porter, Executive Director, Constitution Leadership Initiative

-Government Derives Powers From the Consent of the Governed
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –“

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

-Right of the People To Alter or Abolish Government
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,”

Guest Essayist: James D. Best, Author, Tempest at Dawn, a novel about the 1787 Constitutional Convention; and Principled ActionLessons from the Origins of the American Republic

-Foundation of Government on Principles
“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.”

Guest Essayist: Will Morrisey, Professor Emeritus of Politics, Hillsdale College; Editor and Publisher, Will Morrisey Reviews

-Governments Long Established Should Not Be Changed for Light and Transient Causes
“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.”

Guest Essayist: The Honorable David L. Robbins, Education Commissioner, District 2, New Mexico

-Confronting A Long Train of Abuses and Usurpations
“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.”

Guest Essayist: Val Crofts, Social Studies Teacher, Wisconsin; Member, U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission

Grievances: The Abuses of King George III

-“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.”

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

-“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.”

Guest Essayist: Val Crofts, Social Studies Teacher, Wisconsin; Member, U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission

-“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.”

Guest Essayist: Gary Porter, Executive Director, Constitution Leadership Initiative

-“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 & 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.”

Efforts to Obtain Justice from Great Britain

-“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 Brittish 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.”

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

Birth of the American Nation

-“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 Independent 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.”

Guest Essayist: Val Crofts, Social Studies Teacher, Wisconsin; Member, U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission

56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence

Note: August 2, 1776 is the actual signing day of the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, signed on July 4, 1776 in large letters just beneath the text. The Declaration was then sent to each of the thirteen colonies to read on July 5. The regular delegates added their names on August 2 when the document was ready. Beginning with New Hampshire, the signers wrote their names beneath John Hancock’s starting on the right side of the document working geographically from the northern states to the southern states. The committee to draft the Declaration consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston of New York. Livingston played an integral role in crafting the document though he was not among the fifty-six signers. There are two differences in the signing order: John Hancock, who signed first at the top, is listed with the Massachusetts signers. Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire, who signed later, is listed with his New Hampshire counterparts. Six signers of the Declaration of Independence also signed the United States Constitution eleven years later: George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, Roger Sherman, and James Wilson.

New Hampshire:

Josiah Bartlett – New Hampshire

William Whipple – New Hampshire

Matthew Thornton – New Hampshire

Massachusetts:

John Hancock – Massachusetts

Samuel Adams – Massachusetts

John Adams – Massachusetts

Robert Treat Paine – Massachusetts

Elbridge Gerry – Massachusetts

Rhode Island:

Stephen Hopkins – Rhode Island

William Ellery – Rhode Island

Connecticut:

Roger Sherman – Connecticut

Samuel Huntington – Connecticut

William Williams – Connecticut

Oliver Wolcott – Connecticut

New York:

William Floyd – New York

Philip Livingston – New York

Francis Lewis – New York

Lewis Morris – New York

New Jersey:

Richard Stockton – New Jersey

John Witherspoon – New Jersey

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

Francis Hopkinson – New Jersey

John Hart – New Jersey

Abraham Clark – New Jersey

Pennsylvania:

Robert Morris – Pennsylvania

Benjamin Rush – Pennsylvania

Benjamin Franklin – Pennsylvania

John Morton – Pennsylvania

George Clymer – Pennsylvania

James Smith – Pennsylvania

George Taylor – Pennsylvania

James Wilson – Pennsylvania

George Ross – Pennsylvania

Delaware:

Caesar Rodney – Delaware

George Read – Delaware

Thomas McKean – Delaware

Maryland:

Samuel Chase – Maryland

William Paca – Maryland

Thomas Stone – Maryland

Charles Carroll of Carrollton – Maryland

Virginia:

George Wythe – Virginia

Richard Henry Lee – Virginia

Thomas Jefferson – Virginia

Guest Essayist: Tony Williams, Author of six books including Washington and Hamilton: The Alliance that Forged America; Senior Teaching Fellow, Bill of Rights Institute; Constituting America Fellow

Benjamin Harrison – Virginia

Thomas Nelson, Jr. – Virginia

Francis Lightfoot Lee – Virginia

Carter Braxton – Virginia

North Carolina:

William Hooper – North Carolina

Joseph Hewes – North Carolina

John Penn – North Carolina

South Carolina:

Edward Rutledge – South Carolina

Thomas Heyward, Jr. – South Carolina

Thomas Lynch, Jr. – South Carolina

Arthur Middleton – South Carolina

Georgia:

Button Gwinnett – Georgia

Lyman Hall – Georgia

George Walton – Georgia

Conclusion

Guest Essayist: TBA

 

 

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