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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

Jefferson was chosen a member of the committee


For

now the time was rife for such intellectual leadership as Jefferson, armed by Rousseau, could supply. The challenge flung down by the British Government in the matter of the Charter of Massachusetts was to be taken up. The argument that whatever rights Americans might have they derived from Royal Charters was to be answered by one who held that their "inalienable rights" were derived from a primordial charter granted not by King George but by his Maker.

The second Continental Congress, after many hesitations, determined at length upon a complete severance with the mother country. A resolution to that effect was carried on the motion of Lee, the great Virginian gentleman, an ancestor of the noblest of Southern warriors. After much adroit negotiations a unanimous vote was secured for it. A committee was appointed to draft a formal announcement and defence of the step which had been taken. Jefferson was chosen a member of the committee, and to him was most wisely entrusted the drafting of the famous "Declaration."

The introductory paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence contain the whole substance of the faith upon which the new Commonwealth was to be built. Without a full comprehension of their contents the subsequent history of America would be unintelligible. It will therefore be well to quote them here verbatim, and I do so the more readily because, apart from their historic importance, it is a pity that

more Englishmen are not acquainted with this masterpiece of English prose.

_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 for the opinion of Mankind requires that they shall declare the cause that impels 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 inalienable 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 those ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to reinstate a 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._

The Declaration goes on to specify the causes of grievances which the colonists conceive themselves to have against the royal government, and concludes as 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 the 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._


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