Declaration of Independence, Modern Translation

I was inspired for our family to read aloud the Declaration of Independence this 4th of July. The inspiration came from a few different sources, including a conversation with my grandma about a trip to the Texas Capitol in the "old days." I mentioned this idea to Karl and my parents, and they were for it!

The Declaration has such out-dated language (which I hope one day the kids can understand with ease), but until then, we'll read a thought-by-thought "translation." This practice evoked deep thoughts for me, and will spark good conversations so I thought I'd share with you as well. 

Download for free at bottom and/or read here. Original English in blue, today's English in red italics.

Painting in Independence Hall, Philadelphia
(personal photo I took when we visited)

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,
When you realize it’s necessary for one group of people to separate from their existing government in order to have equal standing as human beings, (which is the right of any human being whether you believe people are made by God or nature), you should show common decency by stating the reasons why you feel it necessary to separate in the first place. So before we begin governing ourselves, here are our reasons, which are true and obvious to everyone:

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.
All men are created equal—A person from one nation is just as important as a person from another nation, there is no hierarchy in humanity because all people are made by their Creator and therefore have certain rights no matter where they come from. These rights are: 1. The right to Life—it’s not the government’s business to limit human life, 2. The right to Liberty—the government should let people choose instead of choosing for them, and 3. The right to pursue personal happiness—the government should be a system that allows people opportunities to make the type of life they desire (implied that their pursuits don’t harm these 3 rights for other people).

--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;
The purpose of government is to protect its people. Those who hold a position of power in government should have that position because the people choose so. Because of that, when a government isn’t protecting its people but instead protects itself, the people being hurt by this government have a human right to change the system so that these human rights stay protected. This should never be done for small reasons or for trendy causes that arise today. It’s unwise to overthrow a long-established government.

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.
As history teaches us, people will suffer more without a government than with one that requires them to endure some evils or hardships. But, when it’s proven that the government has a long train of abuses and continually removes people’s rights instead of increasing people’s rights, they give people no choice—they must throw off such a government so that they can provide a new and secure future. Such has been our experience in the new Colonies—we have patiently suffered, and now a change is necessary.

Contemplations in response:
  • The writers of the Declaration of Independence were the first "PC" people--they purposefully chose inclusive language to allow for different religious views while many of them had strong faith in God and the Bible. They had seen the destruction that came from a government who forced faith on people, so they knew it best to allow people to explore God for themselves. 
    • How can I help people explore God without forcing it on them?
  • These men were strong in conviction, brave, and collaborative. In order to write this, they met secretly in an unventilated room for 2 weeks in the summer while wearing wool coats. They most certainly had different ideas, but they came together risking personal safety as well as comfort in order to serve humanity. 
    • How can I emulate this character today?
  • While obviously heroes, these men weren't perfect. They had blind spots in their character. Isn't it obvious to everyone now that what was being done to the colonists, the colonists turned around and did to slaves? Heart-breaking. And there's still lingering effects of this oppression. Reading that last paragraph of the declaration while thinking about friends of a different race, I realize that they may have a different perception of this document. Some maybe even have "a long train of abuse" in their lifetime. There are many people who hold government positions who do things to increase civil liberties, and there are places where the opposite happens.
    • What can I do to increase the civil liberties of others?
  • There's another obvious evil going on today in our country that is in direct contrast with these unalienable rights. OBVIOUS. Yet blinded to many.
    • What are my own blind spots? Am I open to learning and listening?
  • Yet the writers had foresight to expect evils to arise, and therefore the framers of the constitution allowed for THE PEOPLE to make alterations. This is something to be grateful for! I am one of the people! You are one of the people! And if we choose to move forward where we're at with bravery, sacrifice, and collaboration, then we increase justice in our  space. 
    • What if everyone replaced one social media complaint with one small act of justice in their space?

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