Why We Fight
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands that have connected them with another, and assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind demands that they declare the causes which impel them to that 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
And that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
And that to secure these rights, Governments are institituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
And that whenever any Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it and institute new Government, laying it foundation on such principles and organizing its powers as such to them seems best to effect their safety and happiness.
Prudence, indeed, would dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. And 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 accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design, pursuing invariably the same object, to reduce them under absolute despotism – it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and appoint new guardians for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies, and such is now the circumstances which constrain them to alter their former systems of Government. The history of the present king of Great Britain (George III) is a history of repeated abuses and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny in these colonies. To prove this, let facts be submitted before a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary to the public good.
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.
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.
He has called together Legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant from the repositories of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved the representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the People.
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 meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these states, for that purpose obstructing Laws for the nationalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions for the appropriations of new lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our People and eat out their sustenance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our Legislatures.
He has affected to render the military power independent of and superior to the civil power.
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 pretended acts of legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states.
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.
For imposing taxes upon us without our consent.
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury.
For transporting us beyond the seas to be tried for pretended offenses.
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.
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws and altering fundamentally the forms of our Governments.
For suspending our own Legislatures and declaring themselves invested with the power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns and utterly destroyed the lives of our People.
He is, at this time, transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny begun by him in circumstances of cruelty and perfidity scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous of ages and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
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 bretheren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrection among us and 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.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble of terms. Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act that may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free People.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British bretheren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their Legislature to establish unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the conditions 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 consanguinity. We must therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold all mankind, enemies in war – in peace, friends.
We therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in general congress assembled, appealing to 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 there united colonies are, and of right ought to be – free and independent states. That they are totally absolved of any 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 right to declare war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for 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.
If you will indulge me one last quote from another era in which we also faced a divided nation:
Gentlemen cry "Peace! Peace!" But there is no peace! The war is already begun. The next gale that blows form the north will bring with it the resounding clash of arms. Our bretheren are already in the field. Why stand we here idle?
What is it that gentlemen wish? What is it that they would have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased with the bonds of chains and slavery? Forbid it almighty God!
I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me Liberty or give me death!
The Enemy believes that he is stronger than us. He believes this because, as he has said many times, in many forums, that we love life – while he loves death. And that is why he will defeat us.
And if that were the extent of the case, he would be correct. Of course it is true that we love life as only a diseased and psychotic people would worship death.
But there are things that we love more than life, chief among these being Liberty. We will fight for Liberty and we will die for Liberty. For our own, and for the Liberty of others.
That is why we are stronger than the Enemy. And that is why we will defeat him.