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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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The Declaration of Independence

Comments (14)

I love origin stories. The moment of the beginning of something new, or a key point in the founding of something, is always powerful to me.

On the 238th birthday of the United States of America, I think it’s useful to reflect on America’s origin story. So, after seeing an email by Bart Lorang at FullContact where he said that he read the Declaration of Independence to his new son, Laser Lorang, I decide to go read it again.

After reading it slowly and carefully, I decided to post it here as my birthday tribute. It’s pretty amazing to reflect on what was happening in the country 238 years ago that caused the committee of five (Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston) to draft, and then for Congress, to adopt, the Declaration of Independence.

Happy birthday America.


 

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 harrass 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 benefits 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 Brittish 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.

  • Tim Converse

    See the recent argument by Danielle Allen that the period after “pursuit of happiness” is a transcription error – meaning that the following clauses about the role of government are meant to be taken also as self-evident truths.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/us/politics/a-period-is-questioned-in-the-declaration-of-independence.html?_r=0

  • http://fullcontact.com/ Bart Lorang

    I told Baby Laser: “In order to leave the house when you turn 18, you have to have this memorized and recite it for me” – to which Sarah asked me: “Do YOU have it memorized?” I responded: “No, but he must do as I say, not as I do. He’s supposed to be better than his Dad.” Ack. I’m already turning into my Dad.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Open yourself to your dadness.

    • Paul Eastlund

      You gotta embrace that. Teaching your kids better habits than the ones you grew up with is a gift. The best part is when it starts to work both ways — when watching your kids live up to the high standards you’ve set for them drives you to reach harder for them yourself. That’s magical.

  • http://www.betterstrongerfaster.com/ Mark Cancellieri

    The United States was history’s most successful startup. :-)

  • http://bobmonsour.com bobmonsour

    Thanks Brad. It’s been a very long time since I’ve read that. It continues to inspire.

  • davidcowan

    Surprised by “For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States” Didn’t Adams himself defend the soldiers? (Or so I learned on HBO)

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      Don’t believe anything you see on HBO.

      • Paul Eastlund

        No, he’s right; John Adams was the defense attorney for the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. But there were other incidents between British soldiers and colonists that weren’t settled as fairly that this could be referring to. http://colonialhall.com/histdocs/declaration/ (if you can get past the glaring error messages) goes into a bit more detail about this, and all the other grievances as well.

        • http://www.feld.com bfeld

          My experience is that @davidcowan is usually right.

  • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

    Powerful display of their wisdom and foresight. Good things need to be repeated.

  • Drew V

    Thanks for posting as a reminder. The fact that blows my mind is how old (or, young actually) the majority of the founding fathers were. 7 of the 12 were under the age of 26.

  • inorganik

    Seems like a good tradition to read this every year on the 4th.

  • http://www.pointsandfigures.com/ pointsnfigures

    Best writing since the Old and New Testament. Most important ideas put to paper ever.

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