Vail Law: Here’s the Declaration of Independence, in plain English (column)
Today is Independence Day. Go, us.
The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House (now known as Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
Thomas Jefferson composed the initial draft. It runs 1,320 words.
The problem is, those colonials spoke in such high-falutin’ language that, to the modern ear, it’s like listening to Shakespeare in the park. Below is a layman’s brief take on that momentous text:
England, we’re fed up with you. We want to go our separate ways.
We have come to the conclusion that all men are equal under God. There are certain rights that come with simply being human. Among them are the right to life, to liberty and to seek happiness in whatever way each man determines blows his skirt up.
Consent of the governed
Governments exist as a contract between the governed and those who pull the levers. When the lever-pullers muck things up, the peeps can say “No mas.” And when the people collectively have had enough, they can form a new government that better suits them.
When, Old Mother Country, we cast you aside, we are doing so after a whole lot of cogitating. It’s better for us both than for us to be miserable. And miserable we have been. You have messed with us and pushed our buttons. We can’t take it anymore. We have been patient and long-suffering. We hoped things would get better. But they haven’t. So now’s the time to cast you off. Ta-ta.
The king has been a jerk. He has refused our reasonable demands. He thinks he’s a big deal and doesn’t have to listen to us. In all candor, he has become an insufferable tyrant. When we try to do something useful for the common good, all we get from him is an emphatic “No.”
He makes us jump through all sorts of unnecessary hoops. We want to govern ourselves, but he shuts that down. We want to bring in more people to fill up this huge empty country of ours, but, nope, he says that is verboten. Neither will he let us establish a legal system to help our countrymen play nice with one another. He sends out his obsequious minions to harass us in too many ways to count.
Troops among us
We’ve got the king’s armed presence all up in our stuff. That’s intimidating. We’ve got no appetite to live in a police state. And, the maraschino on all this macho military crap is that he makes us put up his soldiers in our homes. Sometimes, you throw people in jail without a trial, and sometimes, you ship folks off to Jolly Olde for some made-up offense.
Uh-uh. No more.
George, man, we tried to tell you but you wouldn’t listen. You cut off our trade; how’s a guy supposed to make an honest living? Then you tax us without us having any say-so. That just isn’t right. It just isn’t working for us anymore.
Brother vs. brother
You’re even messing with the homeland, trying to turn us against one another, trying to stir things up. You’ve gone so far as to enlist the Native Americans against us. C’mon, what’s with that?
We’ve asked and asked again. But you’ve got cotton in your ears. So, no more mister nice guy.
Until now, we’ve generally enjoyed the relationship. But enough is enough.
We hope you’ll take this well. We’d rather make love than war. But if you can’t accept a peaceful dissolution, then put your dukes up.
So, in summarizing, we’re going our own way. We’re done with you.
We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.
We’re pretty sure that God is on our side in all of this, and you might want to give that some calm reflection before you make some rash decisions.
Hey, George, we’re all in this together. We’re united.
Don’t let the door hit you in the royal fanny on the way out.
Love and kisses,
And then there are a bunch of signatures.
God bless us one and all. And God bless these United States.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody and divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.