[ Forwarded from James Kiefer. ]
On 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress, comprising delegates sent by the legislatures of the thirteen colonies, voted to declare complete independence from British rule, and on 4 July the formal wording of the declaration (principally the work of Thomas Jefferson) was approved and the document signed.
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
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of These ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation upon 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 shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are long accustomed. But [our grievances are neither light nor transient, and a list of them follows....]
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
The decision to seek independence rather than simply a restoration of the colonists' traditional rights as British subjects did not come readily or suddenly. Armies had been in the field for more than a year before the Declaration, and for another two years afterward, the officers of the Continental Army drank his Majesty's health at every mess. But the Declaration was rightly acknowledged as crucial. It speaks in terms of the Natural Law and God-given principles of justice and right, in language that, as one (British) writer has said, combines great prose, great politics, and great theology.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 10:17-21 ("When you have entered the homeland that God gives you, serve Him faithfully. Deal generously with the alien and the homeless, for you were homeless aliens in the land of Egypt.")
Psalm 145 ("One generation shall declare thy works unto another.")
Epistle: Hebrews 11:8-16 (Abraham and the other saints of old recognized that their true and abiding homeland is not on earth, but awaits them in Heaven.)
Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48 ("Love your enemies.... Your Father in Heaven makes the sun rise on the evil and the good....")
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country Won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the peoples of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country Won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we pray, that we and all the peoples of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our Heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move Every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.