J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, July 04, 2016

“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable”

On this Independence Day, Boston 1775 pauses to recall these stirring words:
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independant station to which the laws of nature & 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 change.

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed;

that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organising it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness.

prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & 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. but when a long train of abuses & usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to subject them to arbitrary power, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government & to provide new guards for their future security.

such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. the history of his present majesty, is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which no one fact stands single or solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of which have in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. to prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.
The possessive “it’s,” the “independant” spelling, and eschewal of capital letters are clues that these words came unedited from the pen of Thomas Jefferson. This is how his draft of the Declaration of Independence began, as reconstructed from the manuscripts he proudly preserved.

2 comments:

Chris Hurley of Woburn said...

"no one fact stands single or solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest"
It sounds like Jefferson himself may have thought some of the charges against the crown were inaccurate or exaggerated.

not Bridget said...

Didn't Benjamin Franklin substitute "self-evident" for "sacred & undeniable"?

For all his low esteem of Organized Religion, TJ did tend to use religious phraseology. (Wouldn't he later call the Federalists--especially The Evil Hamilton--"heresiarchs"?)

Franklin's change was efficient & secular--quite an improvement.