The Declaration of Independence is an incredible document that communicates the reasons why many people pledged their life, wealth and honor to risk war and death to create the United States of America we now take for granted.
For many years I have enjoyed rewriting texts like Puritan Prayers and classic sermons from centuries gone by so that my generation can be effected by them as the original readers/listeners were.
It is an unfortunate, but undeniable fact that the common vocabulary and reading comprehension today is much lower than in previous eras. Given that, plus the natural changes in language that occur over time, it is simply too much work for the average, and even advanced reader, to dissect and comprehend much of the older writings. As well, the style of past authors was generally much more complex, whereas we have become accustomed to short, simple, bite sized sentences. This is neither good or bad, it is simply a fact.
I have attempted to write a modern translation of the Declaration of Independence using vocabulary and structure that is easily comprehended while not “dumbing down” the verbiage to the degree that it loses its seriousness or majestic ring.
You’ll find a sample of my modern English version of Puritan prayers here: https://www.seriousfaith.com/dvo/devotion.asp?teachingnumber=577
and “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God” here:
I hope you enjoy this, and will pass it on to every American, family and Patriot that you know. We should all know and understand the reason why God providentially ordained the United States of America to become the greatest country in world history in many aspects: prosperity, freedom, benevolence, rights of expression and religion; and at one time the greatest exporter of Christianity in all history.
I hope every parent will read this to their children so they can grow to love our nation. I hope every business man will read and understand our heritage of personal rights, responsibility and freedom. I hope every teacher will read it to their students so they will actually understand this document rather than just pay academic lip service to it. I hope every Pastor and preacher will remind their flock why we get to meet without persecution in America to worship God.
I have included the original transcript at the end in case you want to reference it. I am no scholar, nor a lawyer. I do not claim a lofty ability as an author but do recognize a God-given ability to communicate in such a way that appeals to those seeking to learn and understand certain important things, namely, the Bible. In that light, I offer to you this modern translation of the Declaration of Independence so that Americans of the 21 Century might regain an understanding and appreciation of our great beginnings as a nation.
The Declaration of Independence IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
Every State in America agrees with and declares the following,
When it becomes necessary during the normal course of human history that a specific group of People find it undeniable that they must completely end their relationship with another group of People and assume in this world an equal, separate and sovereign status among nations (which the Laws of God entitle all mankind) – common and decent respect for humanity compels that group of People to clearly and publicly declare their reasons which have forced them to end the relationship in question.
We hold the following truths to be obvious and undeniable,
· All men are created equal and have been equipped and supplied by the Creator with certain rights that cannot and must not be taken away which include:
o Personal freedom (liberty)
o And the right to pursue happiness.
To secure these God-ordained rights, Governments are created and they derive their power and authority from the People they govern, who give them permission to govern, and willingly submit to their authority.
However, when any Government decides to take away the right of personal freedom and the pursuit of happiness, it is the right of the People under that Government to change the Government, or if necessary, get rid of the Government altogether, to recreate a Government which are once again founded upon the principles of freedom, and organized in such a way as to guarantee those freedoms.
Logic, caution and good judgment requires that established Governments should not be altered hastily, without good reason or for temporary circumstances. As well, experience has demonstrated that the People have a tendency to suffer Government evils, rather than change them, as long as the suffering is not too extreme. Why? Because People get used to things being a certain way, and it is difficult and takes great effort to change.
But… when a long series of abuses and stealing of freedoms has occurred by the Government, which are all meant to achieve the goal of putting the People under the rule of violent tyrants, it becomes the right of the People – even more it becomes the duty of the People – to defeat and cast away that Government and create a new Government and new safeguards to protect their freedom.
This is what has happened to the thirteen Colonies who have been patient in this matter of suffering. The Colonies have reached a point where they have no choice but to alter their current system of Government because their freedoms have been abused.
The King of England has a long history of recurring abuses and seizing freedom by violent threats. The King has one single objective: to take absolute, dictatorial control over the Colonies. To prove this, consider the following facts which we make public for the whole world to evaluate:
· The King has refused to sign into law a system where Courts administer justice
· The King has forbid his Governors to pass urgent laws that are extremely important to us. They must delay the laws and get the King’s permission first. Even when the Governors suspend the laws, the King still neglects to consider them anyway.
· The King has refused to sign or consider other laws that enact provisions for large groups of People unless those People give up their right to be represented in the Government – in other words, they must give up their freedom to get the King to pass the law… something only a Tyrant would ask the People to do.
· The King has called the Government leaders together in unusual and uncomfortable places, far from any legal resources or Public Records for the sole purpose of making them so tired and uncomfortable, they will simply agree with King and do what he wants.
· The King has repeatedly shut down the parts of the Government that represent the People. Why? Because they have opposed him when he was has abused the rights of the People they represent.
· The King has refused for long periods of time to allow other Representatives of the People to be elected after he himself dissolved their Representation. So the Representatives, who simply cannot walk away and forget those they represent or their duties, have returned to the People to do their service. Meanwhile, the country remains exposed to invasion by other countries, and intense turmoil and uncertainty from within.
· The King has tried to prevent people from coming to live in our States, obstructing Laws that allow foreigners to become citizens, refusing to sign laws that encourage foreigners to migrate to this country, and making new laws that make it more difficult to own or buy land here.
· The King has hindered the administration of law and justice by refusing to allow us to create Courts and appoint Judges.
· The King has appointed his own puppet Judges who will do nothing except what the King says to do. If not, he will remove them from office or not pay them.
· The King has created many new public offices in order to send large groups of Government officials to harass the People, and take their wealth.
· The King has kept his battle-ready Armies living among us, even in times of peace, without our permission or agreement.
· The King has declared that his Army is not subject to our laws or authority.
· The King has agreed to make us subject to the laws and authority of foreign Governments and disregarding our own laws, he gives his agreement to the foreign law makers.
· The King houses and feeds large Armies within our civilian population.
· The King protects his Armies from any punishment or prosecution by fake trials even if they are guilty of murdering our citizens.
· The King has cut off our trade with other parts of the world.
· The King has imposed taxes on us without our permission or agreement.
· The King often refuses our citizens the benefits of a trial by jury.
· The King will transport our citizens across the ocean and put them on trial for pretend violations of the law.
· The King has abolished our Government in one area only to set up his own Government. Then the King will enlarge the territory this new Government is responsible for, and claim that the citizens of this expanded area are now under the absolute rule of the Government the King set up.
· The King has taken away our own Government agreements, dismissed our most valuable laws, and fundamentally changed the way we govern ourselves by suspending our Legislatures and declaring that the King and his representatives now have the power to make law in all cases.
· The King has disowned and dismissed our Government, declaring that we are no longer under his protection as he wages war against us.
· The King has robbed our overseas trade, destroyed our coastal economy, burned our communities and ruined the lives of our people.
· The King is, at this very moment, sending large Armies of foreign soldiers of death to complete the work of destroying us, of ruining our country and establishing his tyranny over us. The King acts with a cruelty and betrayal that has seldom been matched in even the most barbaric of times… actions that are totally unworthy of being a ruler in a civilized world.
· The King has captured our Citizens while out at Sea and has forced them to fight against their own country and to kill their friends and family – or face death.
· The King has stirred up rebellions among us and has gone about trying to convince the violent Indian populations to kill us. The Indians are well known to have only one rule of warfare: kill every man, woman and child without mercy no matter what their age or physical condition.
At every stage of our suffering and oppression under this King, we have humbly, repeatedly, officially and publicly asked for the ceasing of this oppression, and the correction of these abuses. Our requests have been met only with further injury and insult. A King who has this type of character and morals is defined in only one possible way: a Tyrant, unfit to rule free People.
We have never failed to warn or inform our British brethren. From time to time, we tell them about the attempts of the King and their Government to extend their authority over us. We remind them of the reason why we left England to come to this new country. We have tried to appeal to their own sense of justice and goodness, and have sincerely asked them, based on our common ties of ancestry and family, to not agree with or cooperate with these violations of our freedom which deny that we are a separate Nation. We now consider our brethren in England, as we do all peoples of the world, Enemies if we are at war, and Friends if we have peace.
Therefore, as the Representatives of the United States of America, we, the General Congress, having assembled and prayed to God about the honor and rightness of our conclusions, publish and declare with grave seriousness by the name and authority of the People of these Colonies the following:
The United States have the right to freedom, and ARE free and independent. We denounce and separate ourselves from all authority or allegiance to the King of England and dissolve any political agreements or connections between America and Britain.
As free and independent States, we have the full right and authority to declare War, make peace agreements, build alliances with other countries, establish trade and commerce with the world… and do anything else that free and independent countries have the right to do.
In support of this Declaration, we rely on God to protect and provide for us. Together, we all promise our lives, wealth and honor as a pledge to uphold and honor this Declaration of Independence.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration:
· Button Gwinnett
· Lyman Hall
· George Walton
· William Hooper
· Joseph Hewes
· John Penn
· Edward Rutledge
· Thomas Heyward, Jr.
· Thomas Lynch, Jr.
· Arthur Middleton
· John Hancock
· Samuel Chase
· William Paca
· Thomas Stone
· Charles Carroll of Carrollton
· George Wythe
· Richard Henry Lee
· Thomas Jefferson
· Benjamin Harrison
· Thomas Nelson, Jr.
· Francis Lightfoot Lee
· Carter Braxton
· Robert Morris
· Benjamin Rush
· Benjamin Franklin
· John Morton
· George Clymer
· James Smith
· George Taylor
· James Wilson
· George Ross
· Caesar Rodney
· George Read
· Thomas McKean
· William Floyd
· Philip Livingston
· Francis Lewis
· Lewis Morris
· Richard Stockton
· John Witherspoon
· Francis Hopkinson
· John Hart
· Abraham Clark
· Josiah Bartlett
· William Whipple
· Samuel Adams
· John Adams
· Robert Treat Paine
· Elbridge Gerry
· Stephen Hopkins
· William Ellery
· Roger Sherman
· Samuel Huntington
· William Williams
· Oliver Wolcott
· Matthew Thornton
The Declaration of Independence
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, 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.