The Fourth of July is more than BBQ. To remind everyone at your gathering about the reason for this holiday I have attached an unsigned version of The Declaration of Independence that you can have everyone sign after someone reads it or goes over what it all means. We have done this in the past and everyone enjoyed doing it. After it is signed you can scan it and send the participants a copy…and send me a copy too if you want. Below I have posted information about the Declaration to refresh your memory and it is in words that children can understand if you want to invite some of the kids at the BBQ to read parts of it. Please forward to your friends and relations and make it an annual tradition. I hope it adds to your celebrations and give them some meaning..
The United States Declaration of Independence is a very important thing in the history of the United States of America. It is a paper which said that the United States is a country no longer ruled by Great Britain. American people wrote the Declaration in the year 1776.
In the 18th century (1700s), the 13 colonies that became the United States of America were not a country. They were of Great Britain. This means that Great Britain ruled the people living here. All American people had to do what the King of Great Britain said.
During this time, many American people were angry at the King. They did not want their land to be a colony. They wanted America to be a separate country, so all American people could do what they wanted to do instead of what the King told them to do.
In the year 1776, the American people who wanted to make America a new country had a meeting. They met in the American city of Philadelphia. During this meeting, on June 11, 1776, they gave an important job to John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut. They wanted them to write a paper that said why America should be a country. The leaders of America would use this paper to declare independence (make America apart from Great Britain).
Jefferson, who did most of the writing, was a very smart man. The words he wrote in the Declaration of Independence are very famous and important to our people. His words are important because he explained the democracy our people wanted. Here is a simple version of his words:
Sometimes the people of a country do not want to live in that country any more. Sometimes these people want to make their land into a new country, that is not a part of the old country they lived in before. When people want to do this, they have to say why they want to do it. In this paper, I will say why the people of America want to make a new country. I will say why they do not want to be part of Great Britain any more.
All people are equal. God wants every person to have rights (life, freedom, and happiness). Sometimes bad people try to take away the rights (life, freedom, and happiness) of other people. People make a government so that their rights (life, freedom, and happiness) will be safe. The job of the government is to protect the rights of the people. A government is good when it does this. Also, the government must do what the people say, because the people made the government. When the government does what the people say, it is called a democracy.
Sometimes a government is bad. Sometimes the government does not protect the rights of the people. When this happens, the people have to stop the government. Then they have to make a new government, a good government, that will protect their rights.
It is smart to do this with much caution. People should not stop a very old government for a silly reason. They should only do this when the government does something very bad. They should only stop the government when it tries to take away the rights of the people many times.
The government of Great Britain did something very bad. The king (the leader of the government of Great Britain) tried to take away the rights of the American people many times. Because of this, the people of the United States of America want to make a new country. They do not want to be a part of Great Britain anymore.
After these words, Thomas Jefferson says all the bad things that the government of Great Britain did. There are many things, for example they put people in jail with no reason, made taxes that were too high, and did not give respect to people who lived in the colony.
After he says this, Thomas Jefferson says that the people of America declare their independence. This means that the people of America want to make their land into a new country that is not a part of Great Britain.
The American people in Philadelphia liked the words of Thomas Jefferson. They used his paper to declare their independence. Independence was actually declared on July 2, 1776. The full Continential Congress ratified (approved) the Declaration on July 4th, at the Pennsylvania State House. This version was only signed by the President of the Congress John Hancock and the Secreatary Charles Thomson. A famous ceremony where people signed, often said to be on July 4th, was actually on August 2nd.
They made a new government, a democracy, to rule America. When the king of Great Britain heard about this, he was angry. Great Britain and the United States of America fought in a war. This war is called the American Revolution. America won the war. Because of this, the people of America do not have to listen to the King of Great Britain. They do what they want to do.
The people of America like the Declaration of Independence a lot. Every year on the day of July 4, they have a party. They do this to remember the day that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration, and the day that the United States of America became a country. There are parades, fireworks, and songs. July 4 is the birthday of America!
The Declaration of Independence is also important because it says the simple ideas that the people of America believe. It says that every person has rights (life, liberty, and happiness) and that the government has to listen to the people. These things are what make America a country of freedom, where people can do what they want to do.
The Declaration of Independence is very old, but it is still here. The paper that Thomas Jefferson used to write his important words is in a museum in the American capital of Washington, D.C. right now. The American Constitution and the Bill of Rights are there, too. If you ever go to this city, you can go to the National Archives Museum and look at this very old and very important paper. It is one of the most famous things in the city.
And here is the actual Declaration of Independence
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
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 governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established 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 Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for 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 depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved 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 mean time 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 the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of 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 substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military 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 Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a 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 on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
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 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 destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous 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 Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has 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 terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances 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 of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
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 Honor.