Temple's Diary Temple's Diary

The Electric Franklin

July 4, 1776

The great day! The aunts have produced gastronomic marvels, Grandfather ate them heartily and he is about to start the family ceremony:

Grandfather: "I shall read you first the reasons for which this Declaration of Independence has to be made:

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 separation.

"And now, son-in-law Richard will read the fundamental principles upon which the Declaration is based."




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 foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Grandfather: "This should not be done lightly, of course. People will often accept some suffering rather than abolish the form of government to which they are accustomed. Temple, will you read the passage explaining under what circumstances revolting is the right thing to do?"

Me, a little shaky:

When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, shows a design to reduce the people 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.

Grandfather: "And now, Sally and Benny, will you take turns in reading the list of bad things the King has done to us in America? There are so many of them that I have had to skip some."


He has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has rendered the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.

He has given his assent to acts of pretended legislation.

Benny, who has been rehearsing all afternoon:

Acts of 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 taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering the forms of our governments.


He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny.

He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.

Uncle Richard: "And now I'll read about the Americans' efforts at reconciliation."

We have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brothers. We have warned them 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. They, too, have been deaf to the voice of justice. We must therefore accept the necessity of our separation.


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 the 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 totally dissolved; and that these independent states have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts which independent states may 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.

There was a round of applause. Willy had behaved magnificently, handing out the papers in proper order and standing at attention the rest of the time, holding hands with Bob. He refused to take off his sash at bedtime and proclaimed loudly that he was Independence. Benny wore his usual serious expression. Aunt Jane only listened because she could not find her reading glasses, but she nodded vigorously through the performance. Uncle Richard, who has a good reading voice, delivered his pieces in an unemotional manner, with only his clenched fists betraying the inner turmoil.

Aunt Sally was fighting off her tears for all the dead, on both sides. Grandfather was glowing.

I'm sure I was the worst. My hands were shaking and my voice going up and down. All I could think of was my father in jail and the long and bloody war ahead of us — a war so long, predicted Grandfather, that he would not see the end of it, but he felt quite certain it would end in an American victory.

"Franklin at Home" by Henry Bacon (1876).