Home / America's Founding / The Declaration of Independence Approved by Congress as 56 Courageous Signers “Pledge… Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor.”

The Declaration of Independence Approved by Congress as 56 Courageous Signers “Pledge… Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor.”

On July 4th, 1776, US Congress approved the Declaration of Independence from England and declares the God-given unalienable rights of the American people to pursue happiness, not to be the property of a government to be mistreated.

When the First Continental Congress adjourned in October of 1774, the delegates agreed to meet again in Philadelphia on May 5, 1775. Between the First and the Second Continental Congress, many events happened that increased the tensions between the British and the Colonists. The battles of Lexington and Concord, the Colonist defeat in Quebec. The Colonists tried to establish their rights and to fight against the British oppressive taxation and laws. They weren’t exactly the best of friends.

When they met again in the Second Continental Congress, there was a lot of debate whether they should declare independence and risk a war with Britain or should they try to negotiate with King George III. The Patriots wanted to work the problems out in a reasonable fashion and had offered “The Olive Branch Petition” to try to avoid war, but King George III refused to read it and continued to goad the Colonists. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense published in February 1776 convinced many who were undecided there was no choice but to declare independence.

The Patriots had pushed the British out of Boston with a buildup of artillery at Dorchester and were victorious at Charleston where they fought against Admiral Howe’s navy which was trying to capture the port city. There was a lot of frustration over some of the Patriots not wanting independence at the cost of war. Finally, on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee made a formal proposal that the Colonies declare their independence from England and King George III:

RESOLVED, That these United Colonies are, and of right out 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.

The same day Congress appointed a five-man committee led by Thomas Jefferson to write a declaration of independence for the 13 colonies. Jefferson’s journal has this entry:

It appearing in the course of these debates that the colonies of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland & South Carolina were not yet matured for falling from the parent stem, but that they were fast advancing to that state, it was thought most prudent to wait a while for them, and to postpone the final decisions to July 1, but that this might occasion as little delay as possible a committee was appointed to prepare a declaration of independence. The Commee. were John Adams, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston and myself. Committees were also appointed at the same time to prepare a plan of confederation for the colonies, and to state the terms proper to be proposed for foreign alliance.

Everyone on the committee agreed that Thomas Jefferson was the best writer among them and asked him to do the actual writing. It took two weeks (June 11 to June 28, 1776) for Thomas Jefferson to finish the declaration. Personal liberty was the basic theme, but he also listed all the things King George III did as the main reasons for the Colonies wanting independence.

It was presented to Congress and then debated on July 1st and voted for acceptance of the declaration on July 2nd. The delegates from the middle colonies thought any declaration of independence would be premature. On the first vote, only nine colonies voted in favor of declaring independence – South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York were against it. A new delegate from Delaware, Caesar Rodney, changed Delaware’s vote and joined the colonies in favor of independence. Later that day twelve colonies voted for declaring independence, and New York abstained, but approved a move towards independence.

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, and said:

…will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that prosperity will triumph in that days’ transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.

On the 3rd and 4th of July, the delegates went over the Declaration many times. They made a few changes, but by the time they adjourned on July 4th, the Declaration was adopted in final form. This is why July 4th is celebrated as America’s Day of Independence and not July 2nd as John Adams suggested.

Faced with the death penalty for high treason, courageous men debated long before they picked up the quill pen to sign the parchment that declared the independence of the colonies from the mother country on July 4, 1776. For many hours they had debated in the State House at Philadelphia, with the lower chamber doors locked and a guard posted.

According to Jefferson, it was late in the afternoon before the delegates gathered their courage to the sticking point. The talk was about axes, scaffolds, and the gibbet, when suddenly a strong, bold voice sounded–

“Gibbet! They may stretch our necks on all the gibbets in the land; they may turn every rock into a scaffold; every tree into a gallows; every home into a grave, and yet the words of that parchment can never die! They may pour our blood on a thousand scaffolds, and yet from every drop that dies the axe a new champion of freedom will spring into birth! The British King may blot out the stars of God from the sky, but he cannot blot out His words written on that parchment there. The works of God may perish; His words, never!

“The words of this declaration will live in the world long after our bones are dust. To the mechanic in his workshop they will speak hope: to the slave in the mines freedom: but to the coward kings, these words will speak in tones of warning they cannot choose but hear.

“Sign that parchment! Sign, if the next moment the gibbet’s rope is about your neck! Sign, if the next minute this hall rings with the clash of falling axes! Sign, by all of your hopes in life or death, as men, as husbands, as fathers, brothers, sign your names to the parchment, or be accursed forever! Sign, and not only for yourselves, but for all ages, for that parchment will be the textbook of freedom, the bible of the rights of man forever.

“Nay, do not start and whisper with surprise! It is truth, your own hearts witness it: God proclaims it. Look at this strange band of exiles and outcasts, suddenly transformed into a people; a handful of men, weak in arms, but mighty in God-like faith; nay, look at your recent achievements, your Bunker Hill, you Lexington, and then tell me, if you can, that God has not given America to be free!

“It is not give to our poor human intellect to climb to the skies and to pierce the Council of the Almighty One. But methinks I stand among the awful clouds which veils the brightness of Jehovah’s throne.

“Methinks I see the recording Angel come trembling up to the throne and speak his dread message. ‘Father, the old world is baptized in blood. Father, look with one glance of Thine eternal eye, and behold evermore that terrible sight, man trodden beneath the oppressor’s feet, nations lost in blood, murder, and superstition, walking hand in hand over the graves of the victims, and not a single voice of hope to man!’

“He stands there, the Angel, trembling with the record of human guilt, But hark! The voice of God speaks from the awful cloud: ‘Let there be Light again! Tell my people, the poor and oppressed, to go out from the old world, from oppression and blood, and build my alter in the new.’

“As I live, my friends, I believe that to be his voice! Yes, were my soul trembling on the verge of eternity, were this hand freezing in death, were this voice choking in the last struggle, I would still, with the last impulse of that soul, with the last wave of that hand, with the last gasp of that voice, implore you to remember this truth–God has given America to be free!

“Yes, as I sank into the gloomy shadows of the grave, with my last faint whisper I would beg you to sign that parchment for the sake of those millions whose very breath is now hushed in intense expectation as they look up to you for the awful words: ‘You are free.’”

The unknown speaker fell exhausted into his seat. The delegates, carried away by his enthusiasm, rushed forward. John Hancock scarcely had time to pen his bold signature before the quill was grasped by another. It was done.

The delegates turned to express their gratitude to the unknown speaker for his eloquent words. He was not there.

Who was this strange man, who seemed to speak with a divine authority, whose solemn words gave courage to the doubters and sealed the destiny of the new nation?

His name is not recorded; none of those present knew him; or if they did, they did not one acknowledged the acquaintance.

How he had entered into the locked and guarded room is not told, nor is there any record of the manner of his departure.

(Source)

James Perloff is convinced that Thomas Paine wrote the Declaration of Independence, not Thomas Jefferson:

“Everyone knows” Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, but not “everyone knew” it in early America. Jefferson was on the drafting committee at the Second Continental Congress. However, he made no claim to authorship until 1821, when he was an old man, and even then did so ambiguously.

For a long time, it has been understood outside the box of orthodox historiography that the Declaration’s real author was Thomas Paine. The case was made, for example, in Junius Unmasked: Or, Thomas Paine, the Author of the Letters of Junius, and the Declaration of Independence, by Joel Moody (1872); in this article published by Walton Williams in 1906; and in Thomas Paine: Author of the Declaration of Independence  by Joseph Lewis (1947).

Paine (1737-1809) was a British author of anonymous pamphlets. In England he met Freemasonic Grand Master-at-large Benjamin Franklin. When Paine traveled to America, Franklin gave him a letter of introduction. He arrived on November 30, 1774, greeted by Franklin’s physician. This was less than five months before the orchestrated Battle of Lexington, flashpoint of the Revolutionary War.

Paine wasted little time fulfilling a mission is his new-found land. In 1775 he wrote the lengthy pamphlet Common Sense, which called for America’s independence from Britain. Widely distributed, it became the single most influential document inspiring the revolution. Inscribed at Paine’s gravesite is John Adams’s famous rhyme: “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.”

The Declaration of Independence fulfilled the objective of Common Sense. Paine was residing in Philadelphia when the Second Continental Congress met there. As Franklin’s choice to write Common Sense (which he authored anonymously), would he not also be the logical choice to anonymously write the Declaration? As we will soon elaborate, there were several reasons why this could never be publicly disclosed.

The Case for Paine

First, though, let’s review some of the evidence that Paine authored the Declaration. A blog post can only examine a sampling; for thorough analysis, I recommend consulting the sources named above.

There is, of course, a copy of the Declaration in Jefferson’s handwriting. However, there is also one in John Adams’s handwriting. These are evidently copies of Paine’s original. Both content and style are markedly like Paine, not Jefferson, who had never written any paper calling for American independence.

• The original, unedited version contained an anti-slavery clause:

He [King George III] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce . . .

It is commonly said that Jefferson wrote this passionate clause, and slave owners at the Congress demanded its deletion. However, this makes no sense. Jefferson was himself a slave owner; he owned over 600 during his lifetime. And in his writings up to the time of the Declaration, he had never composed even a mild denunciation of slavery.

Paine, on the other hand, had published a 1775 essay called African Slavery in America, writing, e.g.:

That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising. . . .

Our Traders in MEN (an unnatural commodity!) must know the wickedness of the SLAVE-TRADE, if they attend to reasoning, or the dictates of their own hearts: and such as shun and stiffle all these, wilfully sacrifice Conscience, and the character of integrity to that golden idol. . . .1

Note the capitalization of “MEN” in both Paine’s tract and the Declaration’s anti-slavery clause!

• The Declaration exhibited undisguised disdain for King George III:

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.

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.

Such scorn was characteristic of Paine, who called him “the Royal Brute of Great Britain” in Common Sense, which also contained remarks such as these:

I rejected the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England forever, and disdain the wretch, that with the pretended title of FATHER OF HIS people can unfeelingly hear of their slaughter, and composedly sleep with their blood upon his soul.2

the naked and untutored Indian, is less savage than the King of Britain.3

Compare that to Jefferson’s tract A Summary View of the Rights of British America, in which he consistently referred to King George by the respectful title “his Majesty.” Extract:

to propose to the said Congress that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his Majesty, begging leave to lay before him, as Chief Magistrate of the British empire, the united complaints of his Majesty’s subjects in America . . . . which would persuade his Majesty that we are asking favors, and not rights, shall obtain from his Majesty a respectful acceptance; and this his Majesty will think we have reason to expect, when he reflects that he is no more than the chief officer of the people. . . .4 [Italics added]

• The Declaration, including the original draft, uses the word “hath”:

all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Why is this significant? Because in all his individual writings, Jefferson never once used the archaic word “hath,” preferring “has.” Paine, however, used it frequently—in Common Sense, for example, he used “hath” 87 times.

• The Declaration’s original draft condemned the use of “Scotch and foreign mercenaries.” In the final version, the words “Scotch and” were stricken out by the Congress. Why would Jefferson have denounced the Scotch? He traced his own ancestry partly to Scotland, had Scottish teachers during his education, and was affectionate toward Scotsmen. But Paine’s s writings in England had expressed bitter disdain for them.5

Many other examples can be found in the above-cited works: frequent use of capitals in the Declaration—habitual for Paine, but not Jefferson; the correlation of parts of the Declaration with passages in Common Sense; etc.

The Silence Explained

Much of the American republic’s history is surprisingly shrouded in secrecy. All the men who took part in the Boston Tea Party swore a 50-year oath of silence.6 This is why no participant published a description of it until George Hewes’s memoir in 1834.

In my post The Secrets Buried at Lexington Green, we explored the fact that Americans firing shots at Lexington was also kept publicly secret until 50 years after the event.

Was there also, then, a 50-year oath of silence regarding the Declaration? Thomas Jefferson dropped no hint of authorship for 45 years. Finally, in 1821 he recalled:

The committee were J. Adams, Dr. Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston & myself. Committees were also appointed at the same time to prepare a plan of confederation for the colonies, and to state the terms proper to be proposed for foreign alliance. The committee for drawing the declaration of Independence desired me to do it. It was accordingly done, and being approved by them, I reported it to the house on Friday the 28th of June when it was read and ordered to lie on the table.7

“It was accordingly done” is not a very emphatic claim to authorship. If there was a 50-year oath of silence associated with the Declaration, it might be noteworthy that that both Jefferson and John Adams died on the exact day it would have expired: July 4, 1826. I have always romanticized that coincidence, and perhaps it should just stay romanticized. In any event, Jefferson said nothing about writing the Declaration until after Paine’s death.

But why couldn’t Paine be acknowledged as the Declaration’s author? Three reasons stand out:

  1. age-of-reasonThe Declaration was supposed to be written by elected delegates, something Paine was not.
  2. Since Paine hadn’t lived in the colonies before November 30, 1774, it was debatable if he could even be described as an “American.” Although his allegiance to the revolutionary cause might certainly have merited that characterization, most Americans would have been surprised to learn their Declaration was penned by someone who had resided so briefly on their continent. (Paine later returned to Europe, living there from 1787 until 1802.)
  3. But the most important reason Paine couldn’t be acknowledged was that he later wrote The Age of Reason, in which he bitterly denounced Christianity.

Extracts:

It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend.8

Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself, than this thing called Christianity.9

I have shown in all the foregoing parts of this work, that the Bible and Testament are impositions and forgeries.10

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church.11

Since America was predominantly Christian, it couldn’t be admitted that someone of such views had penned the nation’s birth certificate. It would have caused what we now call “cognitive dissonance.”

The “Christian” Revolution

I once heard a pastor preach a sermon on the Fourth of July. He quoted the beginning of the Declaration, laying emphasis on certain words in an effort to authenticate that America’s Founding Fathers were Christians:

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 . . . .

As the phrases “Nature’s God” and “Creator” were quoted, congregation members were oohing and aahing in a sort of mental swoon. But I knew the writer was Paine, a self-proclaimed enemy of Christianity. Here are Paine quotes that demonstrate what he really meant by “Nature’s God” and “Creator”:

When, therefore, we look through nature up to nature’s God, we are in the right road of happiness, but when we trust to books as the Word of God, and confide in them as revealed religion, we are afloat on the ocean of uncertainty, and shatter into contending factions.12

But when I see throughout the greatest part of this book [the Bible] scarcely anything but a history of the grossest vices, and a collection of the most paltry and contemptible tales, I cannot dishonour my Creator by calling it by his name.13

As the pastor continued his “patriot” sermon, I heard such a litany of misrepresentations about America that rage built incrementally within me, until I finally walked out the door. I knew the pastor meant well, but Jesus Christ said he came to tell us the truth, and my tolerance for falsehood has a low breaking point.

Unfortunately, what this pastor was saying is very common in American evangelical churches, who subscribe to what might be called the “David Barton” view of the Founding Fathers. (Barton has made a career out of portraying them as Christians.)

“Free Pass” Theology

Even if Thomas Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence, he was certainly not a Christian in the sense evangelicals mean. Jefferson created what he called the “Jefferson Bible.” This might sound “religious” at first glance, but what Jefferson did was to take the New Testament, and using a razor, cut out virtually all references to miracles, the supernatural, the Resurrection, and the divinity of Christ.

Now if I did that in an evangelical church, I would be quickly shown the exit, called a blasphemer, and the following verse would be quoted to me:

And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:19)

Jefferson, however, is given a “free pass” on this. This is what I call “free pass theology”: one standard for modern Christians, another for the Founding Fathers.

Let’s take taxation, which was the chief dispute between the American colonists and Britain. When pressed by the Pharisees in their attempt to entrap Him, Jesus was clear enough on taxation: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” More than once, I’ve heard pastors preach on this principle, saying something like, “I certainly hope you’re all paying your taxes, and not taking deductions you don’t deserve!” casting their winnowing eyes about the congregation for any guilty looks.

Yet if you ask these very same pastors if the Founding Fathers had to pay taxes, most will typically give them a “free pass,” saying something such as, “Well, no, because that was taxation without representation.” But Jesus made no such distinction. He didn’t say, “You don’t have to pay because you don’t have representation in the Roman senate.”

Likewise, many modern clergymen preach obedience to government, quoting Romans 13:1-2:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Yet if you ask these pastors if this principle applied to the Founding Fathers, you will almost always hear a resounding “No!” I asked one pastor why this was so, given that payment of taxes is not unbiblical. He replied: “The colonists had other grievances.”

This requires examining just what those grievances were, and Thomas Paine’s role in enumerating them.

In 1766, a frustrated Parliament, still seeking some practical means of raising revenues from the colonies, summoned Benjamin Franklin, the leading representative of American interests in Britain, and asked him what sort of revenue measure Americans would accept. Franklin informed them: “I never heard an objection to the right of laying duties to regulate commerce . . . I know that whenever the subject has occurred in conversation where I have been present, it has appeared to be the opinion of every one that we could not be taxed by a Parliament wherein we were not represented. But the payment of duties laid by an act of Parliament as regulations of commerce was never disputed.”14

With such assurances from Franklin, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, assigning duties on various British goods sold in America. These, however, were also violently protested and repealed. Although it would come as a shock to many modern Americans, by 1773 there remained no British taxes on America whatsoever, with one exception: a nominal customs duty on tea of three cents per pound. Furthermore, the tea, which was surplus tea of the East India Company, was offered to colonists at half the price Englishmen paid for it. Nevertheless, Sam Adams’s Sons of Liberty were unwilling to tolerate this insult to their sacred rights. After getting suitably liquored up, they destroyed 340 chests of tea in the Boston Tea Party. The vandalism sparked outrage in Parliament, which felt it had tolerated just about enough from the colony of Massachusetts. This led to passage of the Coercive Acts, measures which included closing the port of Boston until the damage should be paid for.

The Tax Issue

Many Americans, myself included, were taught to believe that British taxes had “enslaved” the colonists. Rarely was it mentioned why those taxes were laid in the first place. During the French and Indian War (1754-63), colonists and British troops had fought on the same side. Britain’s national debt had nearly doubled by the long war’s end, and Parliament felt the burden of paying it off should not be borne by Britain’s taxpayers alone, but by the colonists as well, especially since they were the main beneficiaries of the war’s victorious outcome.

The result was the Sugar Act of 1764, which placed a tax on molasses of three pennies per gallon. This was vigorously protested in the colonies, and Parliament repealed it. In 1765 it tried the Stamp Act (which would have placed a tax stamp on contracts, diplomas, and other documents). Although this revenue measure had succeeded in Britain, it was protested in the colonies so violently that Britain never collected one penny from it, and it was repealed also.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Sam Adams, who also orchestrated the Boston Massacre and Battle of Lexington, was simply seeking to goad Britain into such retaliation, in order to create a pretext for war and revolution.

Ask one of today’s “patriot pastors” if he would have participated in the Boston Tea Party, and he will assure you: “OF COURSE!” Yet these same pastors almost never dispute the taxes laid by today’s American government: federal income tax, state income tax, social security tax, Medicare tax, real estate tax, sales tax, excise tax, utilities tax, etc. Even though these taxes easily consume more than a hundredfold of one’s income compared to King George’s three-penny duty on a pound of tea, the pastors waggle their fingers at their congregations, reminding them to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Again, if cornered about this double standard, the Bartonized pastor will tell you the colonists were exempt from taxation because they “didn’t have representation.” So let’s address this point, even though I also covered it in The Secrets Buried at Lexington Green.

Continued o next page…

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