Reviewer #2 on the Declaration of Independence

RECOMMENDATION: Reject

SPECIFIC COMMENTS TO THE AUTHOR:

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.

The introduction is overly long, and there is no statement of the problem. The author should tell us right away, and clearly, what the argument is. As it is, this weak problem statement does not convince me that the issue at hand is worthy of study. Also, what is up with the false dichotomy between “God” and “Nature”?

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.-

Vague attribution that assumes a unitary public. Author has not defined rights anywhere previously in the text. It is also question-begging.

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.

The theme of safety is introduced after prior focus on happiness, with no transition. Does not adequately cover the literature on either topic to make these claims.

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.

This is a distraction, not a valid counterfactual. This work could benefit from additional case studies where Prudence and evils vary systematically.


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.

The author has provided no empirical proof of bad government–merely asserts a ‘long train of abuses’ and fails to specify them until much later in the document. The manuscript is thus poorly organized and needs to be entirely restructured.

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.

Again, question-begging conclusion that follows, inappropriately, from a simple set of assertions that political revolution is the answer to poor representation in government. The list of offenses, entirely unspecified, comes later, so that this assertion is out of place and unfounded. Thus, the entire theoretical frame is unsound.

It also assumes that everybody is in an equal position to pursue revolution, and thus renders invisible and silences all other voices and perspectives on revolution.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good…..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.

This long list of affronts sounds very serious, indeed, but it lacks specify and citations. Which laws, on what occasions? How do you know these events occurred as you represented them? Which coasts have been “ravaged?” Which merciless Indian Savages have been brought to which frontiers? When, exactly? According to which sources?

I am surprised the author does not seem to know about an important study in this area entitled “Mercilessness as Social Hermeneutic and Construction: A Examination of Savagery as Metaphor.” It is important that this study by cited here and discussed at length.

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.

This argument would be more effective if the author cited the petitions and presented them in detail. The author suggests that such behavior may define a Tyrant. Does it define a Tyrant or not? Granted the fuzzy definition, the conclusion is over-stated and far beyond what you can conclude from the evidence you have presented. I suggest the following improvements to the language: “which may define a Tyrant, is perhaps unfit to the multiple tasks of governance in collaboration with a pluralistic society.”

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.

This paragraph is out of place at the end; it should go at the beginning, along with a clearly stated conceptual framework that specifies, exactly, how repeated warnings and pleas factor into the relationship between revolution and repeated rights violations.

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.

This conclusion suffers from its vainglorious and overwrought language. It is sufficient to the point to say “Subjects will leave and form another nation once the original government fails to demonstrate sufficient legitimacy in the political community.”

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