The Declaration of Independence (Revised)

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The Declaration of Independence was presented before the Continental
Congress for approval on July 2, 1776, but it was not formally ratified
until July 4. The Congress spent two days in revising the document.
(Can you imagine today’s Congress getting this revision process
finished in two days?) It was signed on August 2.

Its primary author was Thomas Jefferson, but also on the drafting
committee were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and
Robert Livingston.

The document was written to serve as a statement of causes that
justified secession. It was aimed at the general population, but
also at foreign nations, whose monarchs would probably not appreciate
a colonial secession movement. This was especially true of France.
Jefferson wanted to persuade the French intelligentsia that wise
men should support the colonies, which France eventually did. Without
this support, especially on the sea, the American Revolution might
have failed. Then Louis XVI would probably have lived out his days
designing locks and other gadgets.


The problem with this document today is that it is politically incorrect.
Therefore, very few students are asked to read it. Furthermore,
there is little doubt that it would be regarded by the American
court system as illegal.

Thus, in the spirit of the times, and for the sake of getting at
least selected portions of the document before America’s high school
students, I offer the following revisions. I use the text
posted on the National Archives site

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.

This, of course, is a blatant rhetorical violation of the wall of
separation between church and state, despite the fact that the originator
of the phrase, “wall of separation,” was Thomas Jefferson. Clearly,
neither he nor Congress fully understood or truly appreciated this
fundamental principle of religious liberty. While “Nature’s God”
was no doubt a way for Jefferson to cover up his Unitarian theology
in a document aimed mainly at Christians, but secondarily at French
intellectuals, the American courts would strike the phrase from
the text today. “One nation under nothing in particular” is the
judicial language of preference. Revise it.

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

Same problem. This Creator business has to go. Also, there is no
word, “unalienable.” That was a typographical error — the most
famous one in American history. Retaining it provides a poor example
to America’s public school children. We must protect the children!
This must be revised. Also, get rid of those capital letters: Rights,
Life, Liberty, Happiness.

— That
to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

is important, of course. A government has to have consent. But the
verb tense “are” seems open-ended. So does “deriving.” It is as
if the consent process were continuing, as if there were still a
right of revolution inhering in the electorate. This is clearly
subversive. When it comes to political consent as a requirement
for government, the proper tense is the past tense.

— 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.

was clearly Jefferson’s Southern partisanship at work. After all,
the man was a slave owner. It is obvious what he had in mind. I
mean, this secession business has to stop somewhere. The section
should simply be dropped.

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.

is excellent. The document should probably begin with this passage.

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.

man had a one-track mind. He just could not leave good enough alone.
Also, the constant capitalization of nouns is Germanic. Nazi, even.
This has to be revised. And “evinces”? Of what was he thinking?
But, for the sake of the final clause, we should be willing to let
this paragraph stand: “new Guards for their future security.” This
has a superb ring to it.

— 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.

have no reticence to recommend rebellion against kings. This passage
may stay.

He has refused
his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public

public good.” Excellent! This is surely why we need more laws: for
the public’s own good. Anyone who opposes new laws is inescapably

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.

should be retained. The world is in need of more governors. “But,
Grandma, why do we need more governors?” “The better to govern,
my dear.” (A little humor never hurts.)

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.

argument is highly suspect. It would indicate the existence of legitimate
opposition to modern administrative law, where unelected bureaucrats
employed by a Federal bureaucracy are called administrative law
judges. They have the authority to hand down decisions as both judge
and jury in terms of the rule book written by their employers. I
may be reading too much into this, but prudence is wise. Eliminate

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.

We need lots of local administrative law judges. This is convenient
for administrative law judges. The passage stays.

He has dissolved
Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness
his invasions on the rights of the people.

did these sorts of things. You just cannot trust them. Keep it.

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.

one is a toss-up. To capitalize People and State is legitimate.
So also with Systems of Government. But not Legislative and Annihilation.
And surely we don’t want to see the State exposed to convulsions.
Keep it.

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.

need open borders. We need amnesty for illegal aliens. We need to
get them registered to vote. We know how they will vote. Keep it.

He has obstructed
the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws
for establishing Judiciary powers.

power to the courts! Especially administrative law courts. This
is the basis of reliable law enforcement today. Keep it.

He has made
Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices,
and the amount and payment of their salaries.

shouldn’t judges be dependent on the will of their employer? He
who pays the piper calls the tune. The State calls the tune. This
passage must go.

He has erected
a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers
to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

to new offices? Was the man insane? What did he want, an economic
recession? Desperate people out of work? And then to use a pejorative
verb like “harass” in relation to a legally constituted authority!
This is simply not acceptable in a public document. Erase it.

He has kept
among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent
of our legislatures.

legislatures making decisions about the use of the nation’s army?
This sounds like militia talk — Timothy McVeigh stuff. Erase

He has affected
to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil

military? The national military? Of course it is under civilian
power. This is why there is a Department of Homeland Security. No
problem here. Leave the paragraph intact.

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:

kind of rhetoric mocks the United Nations and the European Union.
Besides, we all know today that the constitution evolves. It is
a living document. This passage must go.

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:

problem. The next thing you know, people will be posting bumper
stickers with a blue helmet inside one of those Ghostbusters slash
symbols. Erase it.

For cutting
off our Trade with all parts of the world:

toss-up. If trade is under NAFTA or WTO rules, it’s a good thing.
On the other hand, if trade allows the importation of goods from
nations that reject carefully crafted laws establishing fair trade,
it is a threat. I guess it can stay on a provisional basis.

For imposing
Taxes on us without our Consent:

is the second time he has capitalized “consent.” Also, the language
implies that taxes are in some way suspect. If it’s a question of
cutting taxes or cutting this sentence, cut the sentence.

For depriving
us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

are a good thing, especially by administrative law judges. Juries
are time-consuming. “The only good jury is a hung jury!” (A little
gallows humor.) Erase it.

For transporting
us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

snide remarks about the evolving international system of justice.
The man would probably challenge the Genocide Convention. Erase

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:

it. Who can understand it? It’s safe. It’s history. Nobody pays
any attention to history. I mean, this section won’t star Mel Gibson!

For taking
away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering
fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

implies that charters are superior to laws. He even capitalizes
the word. Erase the entire sentence.

For suspending
our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power
to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

times of emergency, extraordinary measures are important for the
well-being of the voters. There are times when you have to destroy
regional political representation in order to save it. Erase it.

He has abdicated
Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging
War against us.

sounds as though the author is defending the secessionist mentality.
He is saying things about George III that others might be tempted
to use against the memory of Abraham Lincoln (may his name be praised).
Erase it.

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

the man have a spell-checker? I mean, “compleat”? What kind of example
does this set for our children? But it is tough on mercenaries,
and mercenaries are kind of like paid militia. Soldiers of fortune.
That sort of person. Leave it in, but run a spell checker.

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.

has something to do with navies, I think. I guess it can stay. I
mean, I wouldn’t want to be drafted into the Navy.

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.

you believe the man’s insensitivity? Indian Savages! Capitalized,
even! It goes.

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.

against a prince, this time. No problem with this. But it implies
that administrators have an obligation to do something with petitions
other than file them. Strike it.

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.

scent of Anglophobia is unmistakable. This sort of national chauvinism
is what is wrong with this country. Erase it.

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.

this sort of rhetoric could be applied retroactively to the late
unpleasantness of 1861—65. Strike it.


The revised version should be sent to every state department of
education in the United States, warning all of them that if the
revised version of this document is not presented in the textbooks
they adopt for use in the state’s public schools, then all Federal
funding will be removed in the following fiscal year.

Now go out and enjoy the Fourth of July. Light a firecracker. Enjoy
a Roman candle or two. Never forget: the Fourth of July is to the
memory of American independence what Labor Day is to labor.

4, 2002

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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