The Declaration of Independence… Minus Politics

I’ll begin this post by admitting that I have an affinity for “declarations” and even for “manifestos.” Whether they be particularly good or bad, the people writing such things have invested more passion in these documents than most people have ever invested in anything. By itself, I think that’s worthy of respect. Right or wrong, the people who write such things are actively living… they are energetically engaging with herculean issues.

This world would be a lot farther along if more people had the courage and drive to do such things. It takes a lot of guts to write and publish a manifesto.

I further admit that I’m an ardent and long-time admirer of Thomas Jefferson.

And so, today I’m editing Jefferson’s Declaration on Independence. I’m really changing only one aspect of it, though it’s a significant aspect: I’m taking out the politics. And that, interestingly enough, leaves us with a document that revolves around morality and liberty.

Editorial Notes

Here are a few editorial notes on my version:

  1. As much as I admire the preamble to 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….”), it’s about politics: nations separating themselves and so on. My version is apolitical. Like many others, I’m convinced that politics is, to use an American legal phrase, “fruit from the poisonous tree.” It derives from the practice of men ruling over other men, and I find that whole exercise degenerate.

  2. I’m ignoring all the complaints against King George. They’re also tied to politics, as well as being way out of date.

  3. Likewise I’m ignoring all the complaints about Britain in general.

  4. In order to keep the document pertinent to Americans, I’ve left the remaining text unchanged. That is, except for removing political material and doing some minor rewording around it, I have altered not a single word. I even left the old-style capitalizations in place. You can check the original text here.

This version, then, is shorter than the original. It’s also, and more importantly, an enlightening read. And it certainly should be for Americans, who tend to claim it as the justification for their way of life.

The Declaration

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 when any organization becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to separate from it, and to institute new arrangements, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that established arrangements 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 arrangements, and to provide new arrangements.

We, therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of good people everywhere, solemnly publish and declare, That we are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that we are Absolved from all Allegiance and have full Power to conduct our own affairs.

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.

My Own Experience

My eyes opened to the Declaration in High School, where a copy of it hung on a schoolroom wall. I read the second section – “We hold these truths…” – and was awestruck by it.

My first impression, and a powerful one, was that this was the truth… that the ideas underneath this were the right ideas to live by… the right way to order my life.

My second impression, coming a second or two later from I know not where, was very simple:

No one believes this.

But whether anyone believes them or not, the core principles of the Declaration – the core principles of what’s written above – define a moral universe suited to all decent men and women. I think we should take it seriously.

* * * * *

As it turns out, history was never too hard to understand; they just told you the wrong story.

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

7 thoughts on “The Declaration of Independence… Minus Politics”

  1. I love it Paul! I did something similar years ago, but only with the first section.
    My only quibble with the above as far as removing the politics, is the phrase “the People”. That’s a definite political phrasing. Just strike the “the” and it reads much better: “it is the Right of People to separate from it”.
    I also would take an additional step to remove the religious mythology from it:
    – in the first section, strike the phrase “by their Creator”
    – in the last two sections replace the phrases, “the Supreme Judge” and “divine Providence” with something like “all right-minded people” or “all good people”.
    I also played around with putting all of it in the first person, “I” instead of “we”. Some of it sounds better to me that way, but it’s really very good either way.
    Anyway, thanks for this article. I’m sharing this far and wide!

  2. To those who are stuck . . . to anyone who is waiting for permission to begin living their lives for themselves and to wrest their freedom and liberties back from those they have been abdicated to, here it is:
    “That we are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that we are Absolved from all Allegiance and have full Power to conduct our own affairs.”
    Now let’s get to work.

  3. You characterize politics as “the practice of men ruling over other men.” I have heard others characterize politics as nothing more than the processes by which all the various relationships between people are conducted. I’m not sure which viewpoint exhibits more truth, but the term is obviously highly subjective.
    In any event, under either of these definitions, I’m not sure it’s possible to “remove politics” from the Declaration — especially if you retain the part about “providing new arrangements to throw off Despotism.”
    On this subject, let me regale you with a posting I made back in 1988:
    A few months ago, my local newspaper printed samples of the questions that they ask on the naturalization test. One question was: what is the most important idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence?
    My immediate answer was that “governments are instituted to secure the rights of men, and any government that does not do so should be discarded and a new one instituted.”
    I guess I wouldn’t have passed. The “correct” answer was: “all men are created equal.”
    Apparently, somebody in the immigration department officially renamed the Declaration of INDEPENDENCE to the “Declaration of Civil Rights” when I wasn’t paying attention. I was almost physically sick.

    1. You characterize politics as “the practice of men ruling over other men.” I have heard others characterize politics as nothing more than the processes by which all the various relationships between people are conducted. I’m not sure which viewpoint exhibits more truth, but the term is obviously highly subjective.
      No, it’s not. All politics involves force. Force, except in immediate self-defense, is immoral. If that assertion is “subjective”, then condemning the actions of murderous dictators can also be characterized as a “subjective judgment”.

      1. Perhaps you mischaracterize my statement. All I’m saying is that some people claim that the term politics includes many other spheres of general human interaction, e.g., “sexual politics,” chivalry, and even agreements of mutual cooperation. For example, one of the common dictionary definitions of the word is “activities within an organization that are aimed at improving someone’s status or position and are typically considered to be devious or divisive,” which is not a governmental phenomenon at all.

    2. I have to agree with you. If the quiz said that was the “correct” answer, that is a very subjective opinion, to put it mildly.

      1. The scary point is, this “subjective” opinion just happened to be the OFFICIAL opinion of the immigration arm of the Federal government. If you didn’t agree with it, it might actually keep the thinking person from qualifying to become a citizen, while admitting yet more sheeple.
        Just one more example of why it’s completely idiotic to grant the power to define and interpret your rights to the party against which those rights were designed to protect you.

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