Declaration of Independence: A Fisking
A conservative blogger's perspective on the Declaration of Independence.
2023 Update: I was reminded of this post by a report on the protest of the phrase “Merciless Indian savages” in the document—which I glossed over entirely.
2014 Update: I wrote the piece below on this date in 2006. Occasionally, I repost it on Independence Day. Some of the jokes are dated and only make sense if you remember the blogosphere and political debates of the day.
Original 2006 post below:
Today marks the 230th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Jim Lynch sent out an email to several of us asking us to blog the event as if we were there. Thus, the following Fisking of the Declaration.
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.
Jefferson has buried an obviously untrue assertion after a rather longwinded series of unsubstantiated premises. [And what’s with the capitalization? Is Course a proper noun now?-ed.] Is it really necessary to dissolve our political bonds? Really? Does the earth have powers? [And why isn’t “earth” capitalized? Surely, it’s closer to being a proper noun than “course.”-ed.]
Regardless, Jefferson provides no proof that there’s a “Creator,” much less that he’s endowed us with any rights, inalienable or otherwise. And, rather obviously, that’s untrue. One has to know very little history to realize that “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is hardly Man’s natural condition. And the idea that “all men are created equal” is simply laughable on its face. For example, I’d have a lot more difficulty impinging on people’s “inalienable” “rights” than, say, King George III.
–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.
This contract theory of government is interesting but hardly comports with reality. Governments are generally created by brute force, with precious little consultation with “the governed.” And, even if we grant that premise for the sake of argument, how exactly are we to ascertain that the masses think the government–let alone its “Form”–is destructive to the Big Three rights that are simultaneously inalienable and about to be destroyed? Presumably, such a government would not have elections that would include ordinary landholders, let alone serfs and indentured servants. (Perhaps Ben Franklin could invent a communications device utilizing “electricity” and people could be randomly sampled?-ed.]
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.
Shorter Tom Jefferson: Treason is bad.
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.
What whiny nonsense. The King has just sent the best army in the history of the planet over to defend his subjects from armed Indians–banded with the bloody French, no less. All he’s asking for in return is that we pay a tax on newspapers, tea, and whatnot. That hardly seems unreasonable. It’s so typical of the Left to undervalue security and to expect it to be provided without trade-offs.
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.
The King is, well, the King. Parliament is largely an advisory body; George III is the decider.
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.
Again, he’s the king. Jefferson and company should be reminded that these are colonies granted under charter from His Majesty.
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.
Again, these are colonies. And England is a long ride from here. Furthermore, in the grand scheme of things, how much difference would a couple of seats in Parliament make, given that we’d be outvoted by domestic interests?
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.
Wah. Is the poor parliamentarians tired? Do they need a nap?
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
(That sounds kind of dirty.-ed.) Since we’re not represented in Parliament anyway–see the earlier whine–what difference does it make?
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.
Dude: We’re colonies of the United Kingdom, not “States.” The UK is a State; Virginia is a trading outpost.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
I think we’re supposed to be listing separate and distinct grievances here, gents. This is essentially the first one over again.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
That’s pretty much the same one again, too. And, really, who likes activist judges anyway?
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
You’re probably the same people who complain about long lines at the Department of Horse-drawn Vehicles, too.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
Well, we are his colonies. And we’re surrounded by savage Indians and renegade Frenchmen and 3000 miles from home. Do you really want to disband the military under those circumstances?
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
Meaning what, exactly? Surely, it’s still subordinate to the commander-in-chief? You mean the local mayor’s office? The colonial governors? Why would they have any authority over the Royal Military?!
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:
He’s the king. His laws are your laws.
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
You wanted the troops unarmed? Or unquartered?
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
The king’s troops are subjected to the king’s law; not that of the colonies they’re sent over to protect. It would be sheer madness to put them in harm’s way and then have local passions govern their punishment if they make a mistake.
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
I hate to keep repeating myself here but we’re British Colonies. England has financed the creation, settlement, building, and defense of this vast empire. And now, when they’re finally starting to produce something of value, they’re supposed to compete on an equal basis with the bloody Frogs and Dutch?
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
Why does he need your consent?
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
Okay, I’ll admit this is uncool. But how many is “many”? And what were the circumstances? Sometimes, national security needs trump individual liberty.
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
I don’t know what the hell this means; you’ll need to be more clear.
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:
Render unto Caesar and all that.
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
Whose colonies are they again?
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
Isn’t this the same complaint again?
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
You can’t simultaneously complain that he’s providing too much government and not enough. Pick one. And you can’t force his hand into using the military to enforce his laws by refusing to obey said laws and then use that fact in evidence as to why you don’t think you should have to obey his laws.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
No, he hasn’t. You’re still here writing this tripe, aren’t you? And, again, they’re his seas, coasts, and towns. You want your own? Be born into royalty in your next life.
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.
Why is he doing this? Because you rich jerks don’t want to pay your fair share of taxes. You’ve made life much more miserable in the short term, claiming that you’re doing it for the little guy, when in fact you’re hurting them. My guess is that, if you could somehow beat the Royal Army and Navy in a fight, that you’ll wind up being the guys in charge. And I suspect you won’t exactly try to operate without taxation. Nor will all men be treated as equals, I’d wager.
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.
Which country is it that’s “their” country again? I get confused.
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.
Uh, it’s the king who’s doing this? How, pray tell, is he doing that? And you’re the guys who think you’re living in a peaceful condition that doesn’t require a standing Army. Who you wouldn’t want quartered amongst you, anyhow. Jerks.
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.
Humble, eh? Like that little “tea party” in Boston? Like the terrorist “Sons of Liberty” and their tarring and feathering, not to mention lynchings?
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.
So, you issue seditious threats, force the king to crack down to establish the order which is the actual reason “Governments are instituted among Men,” and then use the crackdown as evidence that he’s not playing nice?
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.
Now, is this “divine Providence” the same “Creator” who made us all equal and with those inalienable rights? Why doesn’t he just de-alienate them with his magic mojo?
And that’s nothing compared to how the Left would have blogged it! Maybe it’s a good thing blogs–and the New York Times–weren’t around in those days. . . .