Re-Phrase the Declaration of Independence to Find Its Power for the 21st Century

Following the recommendation of a friend to read the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, I struggled through the antiquated sentence structure, nouns and verbs to excavate the power of our forefathers’ anger, vision and intent in declaring their separation from a tyrant King who they claimed had usurped their basic rights as human beings. As a good Protestant who moved from the King James version of the Bible to the Revised Standard Version, the situation felt familiar. I dug into the task of trying for minimimum linguistic tweaking with maximum conveyance of meaning. I also tried to visually shape the prose in a way that the powerpoint generation might appreciate. Below is the result. You try it. Send it through the Contact Form below and let’s get some more examples here.

(re-phrased by Barbara Thornton, July 4, 2014)

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal status to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, then a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should clearly describe the causes which push them toward this separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal;

*that all men are created equal;

*that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights;

*that among these rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness;

*that to secure these rights, Governments are established among People, 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 establish new Government, laying its    foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form that shall seem most likely to effect the Safety and Happiness of the People.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that long standing Governments should not be changed for arbitrary and transient causes.  Experience and history shows that People are more disposed to suffer, as long as evils are sufferable, rather improve their situation by abolishing the organizational structure causing their suffering.   But when a long train of abuses and usurpations demonstrates a continuing pattern of intent to enforce an absolute Despotism over them, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Protections for their future security.  Such has been the patient suffering of these Colonies; and so now it is necessary to alter those former Systems of Government which have constrained them.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having as their direct object, the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world:

  1. He has refused to approve Laws that are the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  2. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, requiring their passage to await his approval, but then he has utterly neglected to even review them.
  3. He has refused to pass other Laws for the benefit of large districts of people, unless those people first agree to relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right of inestimable value to them and only threatening to tyrants.
  4. He has called meetings of legislative bodies at unusual places, places that are uncomfortable and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of wearing them down so they comply with his measures.
  5. He has repeatedly dissolved legislative bodies representing the People when these bodies oppose, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the People.
  6. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to allow others to be elected; so the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have relied on the People at large for their exercise; leaving the State vulnerable and exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions from within.
  7. He has tried to prevent the population growth of these States by obstructing Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners, refusing to pass new laws to encourage immigration and making it more difficult for individuals to own land.
  8. He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing to approve Laws to establish Judiciary Powers for courts.
  9. He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their judgeships and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  10. He has created a multitude of New Offices and sent swarms of officers here to harass our People and live off our provisions.
  11. He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislature.
  12. He has tried to make the Military both independent of and superior to the local Civil power.
  13. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our nature, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Approval to acts of unfair Legislation such as:
  • For quartering large groups of armed troops among us;
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they may 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 Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government and enlarging its Boundaries to 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 Legislature, and declaring that they alone have the power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  1. He has given up his right to govern here by declaring us out of his Protection and by waging War against us.
  2. He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns and destroyed the lives of our people.
  3. 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 of the Head of a civilized nation.
  4. He has forced our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to either bear Arms against their Country becoming the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to die.
  5. He has encouraged domestic insurrections among us and has tried to bring against the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Native Americans 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 more injury.  A prince who shows all the characteristics that 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 repeatedly 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 sense of justice and magnanimity.
  • We have reminded them our ties of common kindred.

All this we do to urge them to disavow these usurpations which will inevitably interrupt our connections and communications.  But they, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice, kinship and friendship.  We must recognize those who denounce our Separation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War but Friends In Peace.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress Assembled, appealing to the supreme Judge of the world for the justice and correctness 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
  • That all political connection between the Colonies and the State of Great Britain is and should be totally dissolved
  • That as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to:
    a) levy War, b) conclude Peace, c) contract Alliances, d) establish Commerce and e) do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may, of right, do.

And, to support 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.

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