The United States Declaration of Independence – In modern English

Several years ago, I tried to write a more modern (and less formal) version for my kids. Here it is:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America

When a group of people splits apart from another group to become their own power in the world, they should give their reasons.

We think that the following things are obvious:

* Everyone is created equal.

* God has given everyone certain rights that no one should be able to take away, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

* People make governments to help them keep those rights safe.

* If a government doesn’t do what it should, then the people have the right to get rid of it and set up a new one.

Of course, if a government has been around a while, it shouldn’t be changed unless there’s a really good reason. (In fact, history has shown that people would often rather keep a bad government than overthrow it.)

But if there have been lots of abuses and the government is just trying to keep the people down, then the people have the right, and the duty, to get rid of it and start a new one that’s better.

That’s what’s been happening here. The King of Great Britain wants to be a tyrant over us, and has repeatedly acted to make himself one.

To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:

* He has refused to allow good laws to be passed.

* He forbids his governors from passing important and pressing laws until he agrees to them himself. Then, he ignores them and won’t say yes or no.

* He has refused to pass other laws unless the people agree to give up their right to representation in government. Only a tyrant would want that.

* He’s made our local governments meet in uncomfortable, weird, places that are far away, just so that they’ll be exhausted enough to agree to his demands.

* Whenever our local governments stand up to him, he dismisses them.

* After dismissing the local governments, he won’t allow new elections, so that we’re stuck without any local government at all.

* He tried to keep our population down by not naturalizing foreigners, by discouraging potential newcomers, and by making it hard to get new land.

* He has obstructed justice by not letting us establish our own court system.

* He made the current judges completely dependent on him for their salary and their jobs.

* He created a bunch of new government offices, and sent over swarms of officials to harass our people.

* He kept his army here, even though we’re at peace, and we didn’t vote for it.

* He has tried to place the military above the civil power.

* He has put us under a legislation that’s foreign to us and that we don’t acknowledge, and which has passed laws that we don’t accept, like:

– For keeping a lot of soldiers around us

– For protecting those soldiers from punishment when they murder our people

– For cutting off our trade with the rest of the world

– For imposing taxes on us without our say

– For often taking away the right of a trial by jury

– For making us stand trial overseas for bogus charges

– For getting rid of the system of laws that our neighbors follow, so that it’ll be easier to get rid of ours

– For taking away our most valuable laws and changing our constitutions

– For suspending our legislatures, then saying that their foreign legislature can handle all our affairs.

* 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, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

* He is right now sending over a large army of foreign mercenaries to finish the job of death, desolation, and tyranny. His cruelty and deceit are practically unprecedented in history, and totally unworthy of the head of a civilized nation.

* He has captured our sailors and forced them to fight against their own people, or be killed.

* He has tried to get people to rebel against the local government, and has encouraged the Indians to attack us.

All along the way, we’ve humbly asked for help. Each time, he has just made it worse. A leader like that, who is obviously a tyrant, isn’t fit to be the ruler of a free people.

We’ve also told the British people about what’s happening. We’ve reminded them about our ties together, and we’ve appealed to their sense of justice and generosity. But they’ve been just as deaf as the king.

So we have to think of the British people the same way we think of everyone else: Enemies if we’re at war. Friends if we’re at peace.

Therefore, hoping that the world agrees with us, we declare that these colonies are, and should be, free and independent states.

These states no longer have any allegiance to the British crown, and all political connections are dissolved. As free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do anything else that free states do.

And to support this declaration, relying on divine protection, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.

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