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Chapter XI The Declaration of Independence
 As all their representations and petitions for just treatment had been made in vain, the Americans felt that the time had come to declare this to the world and to explain that they considered themselves absolved from all their duties to England and resolved to form a State of their own. It was a solemn moment when the announcement was made to the people assembled before the house of Congress in Philadelphia, on the fourth of July, 1776, that the thirteen colonies of America had voted for the Declaration of Independence and the bell rang out, upon which were engraved the words, “Liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants!” The pealing of this bell awakened the neighboring bells to life, and these still others, so that they echoed and re?choed from village to village, from town to town, and thus within a short time the whole expectant country learned that the great and momentous step had been taken that separated it completely and irrevocably from the mother country; a step to which English tyranny had forced the American people.
 
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Everywhere festivities were held to celebrate this great event. The inhabitants of Savannah organized a funeral procession and the effigy of George the Third was buried in front of the State House. One of the citizens pronounced a formal funeral oration in which he said, among other things: “The King has broken his oath to the crown in the most shameless fashion. He has trodden the constitution of our country and the sacred rights of man under foot. For this we lay his political body in the grave—the corrupt to corruption—in the confident hope that it will remain buried forever and ever, and never be resurrected to reign again over these free and independent States of America.” All freedom-loving people in Europe were in sympathy with the struggle across the ocean. Timid souls, to be sure, believed that this example would raise a storm everywhere against the monarchical form of government, although the Americans had been an example of long-suffering patience. Had they not striven to maintain the monarchical form with admirable devotion? What had they asked of the King? Only that the laws of the land should be respected. Laws are the foundation pillars of all government, even the monarchic. It is certainly true that it was King George the Third and his ministers who broke the tie which bound the colonies to England, and that the colonies did not declare themselves an independent nation until all their sincere efforts for just legislation had failed, owing to the obstinacy of the English government. Instead of giving them bread it offered them a stone. Tyranny answered their respectful petitions with powder and lead, instead of a conciliatory recognition of their rights.
 
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The Declaration of Independence is a masterpiece in style and contents. The Americans did not invite others to follow their example; indeed they deprecate this, for it says: “Prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes”; but, on the other hand, the intention is evident, from the beginning of the document, of justifying their step before the whole world, while setting forth the true principles of government. It says, among other things:
 
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 combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation:
 
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 neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government;
 
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, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
 
He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny.
 
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 among us and has endeavored 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 our attentions to our British brethren. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and 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 the 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 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.
 
This Declaration of Independence, as well as the whole conduct of the Congress, won the admiration of the most brilliant thinkers of Europe, among them some who occupied thrones, but were watching without prejudice the progress of affairs. We shall mention only Frederick the Great, who, in his “Observations on the Condition of the European Governmental System,” had given utterance to ideas on the aims of government which were in complete accord with those being promulgated in the forests of America.


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