A lesson in civics derived from the Declaration of Independence

Critique paragraphs 1 and 2 of the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence below and answer the following questions (scroll down below the horizontal line for some of the answers).

1.    For what purpose was this document written?

2.    How did the signers refer to themselves?

3.    What was the definition of “political” and “bands” in the 18th century?

4.    By what names were English “political bands” known in the 18th century?

5.    What are the names of today’s “political bands” in these united States?

6.    With whom had those 18th century political bands connected the people?

7.    With whom do today’s political bands connect the people?

8.   Could the “Creator” mentioned in the second paragraph be different from the God identified in the first paragraph?

9.    If you were present when the Declaration of Independence was being written, would you have insisted that the second paragraph begin with a transition word?

10.  If so, which transition word would you have chosen?  “Although,” “Because,” _________?  Why?

11.  For whom are the people’s “unalienable rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness being secured? By governments for “another” or for the people from whom governments derive their powers?

12.  If the “political bands” of today are securing the people’s rights for another, who do you believe to be that other?

13.  When governments exercise powers that are unjust, what is the duty of the people?

 

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

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.  . . .


 

Some answers . . .

1.    For what purpose was this document written?

“ . . . to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another”.

2.    How did the signers refer to themselves?

“ . . . one people”

3.    What was the definition of “political” and “bands” in the 18th Century?

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755,

political 

1.  Relating to politicks; relating to the administration of public affairs.

2.  Cunning; skilful

bands 

3.  Any means of union or connexion between persons.

6.  A company of persons joined together in any common design.

4.    By what names were English “political bands” known in the 18th Century?

Whigs and Tories

5.    What are the names of today’s “political bands” in these united States?

Democrats and Republicans

6.    With whom had those 18th Century political bands connected the people?

Excerpted from www.england-history.org/2009/10/political-parties

By 1714 a politi­cal alliance of the Dissenters and the greater landown­ers against the smaller landed gentry was the backbone of the Whig party.  The Whig party actively supported the new moneyed men who understood the growing importance of trade and industry.

7.    With whom do today’s political bands connect the people?

Little has changed. archive.org/stream/theoryandpracti01maclgoog#page/n501/mode/1up

8.    Could the “Creator” mentioned in the second paragraph be different from the God identified in the first paragraph?

Yes.  See the 1755 definition of Lord at johnsonsdictionaryonline.com, and Creator — “The being that bestows existence.” 

13.  When governments exercise powers that are unjust, what is the duty of the people?

“ . . . 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.”

And/or “  . . . throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for . . .  future security.”

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