Shot Heard Round the World   5 comments

 

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.

(Original Draft – When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independant station to which the laws of nature & 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 change.)

Our Founders grew up as subjects to the British crown and all that entailed. Some had grown up in England. Others were from the colonies. Many in the colonies, including some of the ones who would be patriots later, had never considered themselves anything but loyal subjects of the Crown. Even those who had read Locke and agreed with his arguments wanted liberty under the Crown, not separate from the Crown.

It’s worthwhile to know that those in England were treated a bit differently than the colonists were. If you lived in England, you had representation in Parliament. If you lived in New York or Virginia, you did not. When we get the simplistic notion that the American Revolution was a taxation revolt, we really are off-base. Taxation was but one symptom of the lack of representation in Parliament.

The patriots had tried for nearly a decade to resolve the issues that stood between them and King George.  Basically, the English fought a war against the French on our land and then asked us to pay for it. It was a war that never would have come to our shores except the English brought it here. When we get to the grievances against King George, we’ll talk more about it, but the English goaded the French into war on American soil and then expected the colonies to pay for England riding to our rescue, when in fact our militias had probably kept them from losing the American theater and it never would have been necessary had the English had simply stayed out of French territory in the Americas. Perhaps that might have been avoided if the colonies had had a voice in Parliament.

There had been countless letters of correspondence and representatives of the colonies crossing the ocean to make an argument for fair treatment under Parliament with the result that the governors in America had been authorized to put their foot on the necks of the colonists. They considered the colonists to be rebellious and in need of guidance. The more they cracked down on the colonists, the angrier the patriots became and it soon because clear to all that the colonists might have to protect themselves against their own government, so they began to store weapons and powder against that possibility.

England had essentially declared war on the colonies more than a year before the writing of the Declaration when British troops marched to confiscate American arms in April 1775. During that entire year, while holding Boston siege, the Americans continued to try to reconcile with the British and received only edicts and ridicule. So, when Thomas Jefferson wrote “it becomes necessary to dissolve the political bands …” it was not done lightly or, indeed quickly. There had been a good faith effort to resolve things peaceably even as the British were being anything but peaceable.

Drawing from John Locke, the Americans considered themselves equal to the British under God’s natural law and they had come to realize that England was never going to grant them the equality that was theirs by right. They weren’t asking for King George’s treasury and privileges. They were asking to be treated in the same manner as British subjects living in England. It had become clear that was never going to happen.

Therefore, separation had become necessary. They wrote their declaration – which was of independence, not war – to explain their reasons to the larger world.  They weren’t seeking to sweep monarchies from the face of the world. They were merely seeking to establish the reasons the American colonies were separating from the British crown. However, they recognized there was a foundation for their reasons for doing this, and thus they put forth a universal message. 

This was not just a treatise on why the Americans were separating from England, but why any group of people joined in governance to another group of people might wish to separate.

In some ways, through setting forth the argument for separation from a despotic government, the Declaration, more than the Battle on Lexington green, was the shot heard round the world.

5 responses to “Shot Heard Round the World

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Books, Books and More Books! .

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  3. Reblogged this on piratepatty

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  4. Great article, Patricia! I almost didn’t need a dictionary:))

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    • You’re welcome, Alex. This is Lela, who actually wrote the article. Do you know that I do completely free author interviews on this site when I’m not babbling about other topics? You should email me at lelamarkham@gmail.com to ask me to send you some questions. Always love seeing your books come up in my feed.

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