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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, deriv. ing their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is i he 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 shown 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 gove ernors 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 repository 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 endeavored to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration 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 thei. offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers, lo harass 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 neighboring prov. ince, 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 complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun, with circumstances of cruelty and 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 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 attentions to our British 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 separa. tion, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in
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 thein 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.
Richard Stockton, George Wythe,
Richard Henry Lee,
Thomas Nelson, Jr., Samuel Adams,
Francis Lightfoot Lee, John Adams,
John Penn. William Ellery.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., Samuel Huntington,
Thomas Lynch, Jr.,
Thomas Stone, Lewis Morris.
C. Carroll, of Carrollton.
POLITICAL RIGHTS AND SOVEREIGNTY.
Respecting the political rights and sovereignty of the several colonies, and of the union which was thus spontaneously formed by the people of the United Colonies, by the declaration of independence, Judge Story, in his Commentaries on the Constitution, remarks :
In the first place, antecedent to the declaration of independence, none of the colonies were, or pretended to be, sovereign states, in the sense in which the term “sovereign" is sometimes applied to the states. The term “sovereign,” or “ sovereignty,” is used in different senses, which often leads to a confusion of ideas, and sometimes to very mischievous and unfounded conclusions. By “sovereignty," in its largest sense, is meant supreme, absolute, uncontrollable power, the jus summi imperii, the absolute right to govern.
A state or nation is a body politic, or so ciety of men, united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength. By the very act of
civil and political association, each citizen subjects himself to the authority of the whole; and the authority of all over each member essentially belongs to the body politic. A state which possesses this absolute power, without any dependence upon any foreign power or state, is in the largest sense a sovereign state. And it is wholly immaterial what is the form of the government, or by whose hands this absolute authority is exercised. It may be exercised by the people at large, as in a pure democracy; or by a select few, as in an absolute aristocracy; or by a single person, as in an absolute monarchy. But “sovereignty” is often used, in a far more limited sense than that of which we have spoken, to designate such political powers as, in the actual organization of the particular state or nation, are to be exclusively exercised by certain public functicnaries, without the control of any superior authority. It is in this sense that Blackstone employs it, when he says that it is of “the very essence of a law, that it is made by the supreme power. Sovereignty and legislature are, indeed, convertible terins; one cannot subsist without the other.” Now, in every limited government, the power of legislation is, or at least may be, limited at the will of the nation; and therefore the legislature is not in an absolute sense sovereign. It is in the same sense that Blackstone says, " the law ascribes to the king of England the attribute of sovereignty or preëminence,” because, in respect to the powers confided to him, he is dependent on no man, and accountable to no man, and subjected to no superior jurisdiction. Yet the king of England cannot make a law; and his acts, beyond the powers assigned to him by the constitution, are utterly void.
In like manner, the word "state" is used in various senses. In its most enlarged sense, it means the people composing a particular nation or community. In this sense, the "state" means the whole people, united into one body politic; and the state, and the people of the state, are equivalent expressions. Mr. Justice Wilson, in his Law Lectures, uses the word
state” in its broadest sense. “In free states," says he,“ the people form an artificial person, or body politic, the highest and noblest ihat can be known. They form that moral person, which, in one of my former lectures, I described as a complete body of free, natural persons, united together for their coinmon benefit; as having an understanding and a will; as deliberating, and resolving, and acting; as possessed of interests which it ought to manage; as enjoying rights which it ought to maintain; and as lying under obligations which it ought to perform. To this moral person we assign, by way of eminence, the dignified appellation of State.” But there is a more limited sense, in which the word is often used, where it expresses merely the positive or actual organization of legislative, executive, or judicial powers. Thus the actual government of a state is frequently designated by the name of the state. We say, the state has power to do this or that; the state has passed a law, or prohibited an act; meaning no more than that the proper functionaries, organized for that purpose, have power to do the act, or have passed the law, or prohibited the particular action. The sovereignty of nation or state, considered with reference to its association, as a body politic, may be absolute and uncontrollable in all respects, except the limitations which it chooses to impose upon itself. But the sovereignty of the government, organized within the state, may be of a very limited nature. It may extend to a few, or to many objects. It may be unlimited, as to some; it may be restrained, as to others To the extent of the power given, the government may be sover
eign, and its acts may be deemed the sovereign acts of the state. Nay, the state, by which we mean the people composing the state, may divide its sovereign powers among various functionaries, and each, in the limiteu sense, would be sovereign in respect to the powers confided to each, and dependent in all other cases. Strictly speaking, in our republican forms of government, the absolute sovereigny of the nation is in the people of the nation; and the residuary sovereignty of each state, not granted to any of its public functionaries, is in the people of the state. *
There is another mode in which we speak of a state as sovereign, and that is in reference to foreign states. Whatever may be the internal organization of the government of any state, if it has the sole power of governing itself, and is not dependent upon any foreign state, it is called a sovereign state; that is, it is a state having the same rights, privileges, and powers, as other independent states. It is in this sense that the term is generally used in treatises and discussions on the law of nations.
Now, it is apparent that none of the colonies, before the revolution, were, in the most large and general sense, independent or sovereign communities. They were all originally settled under, and subjected to, the
Their powers and authorities were derived from, and limited by, their respective charters. All, or nearly all, of these charters controlled their legislation by prohibiting them from making laws repugnant, or contrary, to those of England. The crown, in many of them, possessed a negative upon their legislation, as well as the exclusive appointment of their superior officers, and a right of revision, by way of appeal
, of the judgments of their courts. In their most solemn declarations of rights, they admitted themselves bound, as British subjects, to allegiance to the British crown; and, as such, they claimed to be entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities, of free-born British subjects. They denied all power of taxation, except by their own colonial legislatures; but at the same time they admitted themselves bound by acts of the British Parliament for the regulation of external commerce, so as to secure the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members. So far as respects foreign states, the colonies were not, in the sense of the law of nations, sovereign states, but mere dependencies of Great Britain. They could make no treaty, declare no war, send no ambassadors, regulate no intercourse or commerce, nor, in any other shape, act as sovereigns, in the negotiations usual between independent states. In respect to each other, they stood in the common relation of British subjects; the legislation of neither could be controlled by any other; but there was a common subjection to the British crown. If in any sense they might claim the attributes of sovereignty, it was only in that subordinate sense to which we have alluded, as exercising within a limited extent certain usual powers of sovereignty. They did not even affect to claim a local allegiance.
In the next place, the colonies did not severally act for themselves, and proclaim their own independence. It is true that some of the states had
Mr. Madison, in his elaborate report in the Virginia legislature, in January, 1800, adverts to the different senses in which the word "state" is used. He says, “ It is indeed true that the term "states' is sometimes used in a vague sense, and sometimes in different senses, according to the subject to which it is applied. Thus it sometimes means the separate sections of territory occupied by the political societies within each ; sometimes the particular governments established by those societies ; sometimes those societies, as organized into those particular governments; and lastly, it means the people composing those political societies, in their highest sovereign capacity." VOL. I.