The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence

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Independence: A Solemn Duty

by Richard Henry Lee

The time will certainly come when the fated separation between the mother country and these colonies must take place whether you will or no, for it is so decreed by the very nature of things by the progressive increase of our population, the fertility of our soil, the extent of our territory, the industry of our countrymen, and the immensity of the ocean which separates the two countries. And if this be true, as it is most true, who does not see that the sooner it takes place, the better? -- that it would be the height of folly not to seize the present occasion when British injustice has filled all hearts with indignation, inspired all minds with courage, united all opinions in one, and put arms in every hand? And how long must we traverse three thousand miles of a stormy sea to solicit of arrogant and insolent men either counsel or commands to regulate our domestic affairs? From what we have already achieved it is easy to presume what we shall hereafter accomplish. Experience is the source of sage counsels and liberty is the mother of great men. Have you not seen the enemy driven from Lexington by citizens armed and assembled in one day? Already their most celebrated generals have yielded in Boston to the skill of ours. Already their seamen repulsed from our coasts wander over the ocean, the sport of tempests and the prey of famine. Let us hail the favorable omen and fight not for the sake of knowing on what terms we are to be the slaves of England but to secure to ourselves a free existence to found a just and independent government.

Why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this most happy day give birth to the American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and conquer but to re-establish the reign of peace and the laws. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us; she demands of us a living example of freedom that may contrast by the felicity of her citizens with the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace and the persecuted repose. She entreats us to cultivate a propitious soil where that generous plant which first sprang up and grew in England but is now withered by the poisonous blasts of Scottish tyranny may revive and flourish, sheltering under its salubrious and interminable shade all the unfortunate of the human race. This is the end presaged by so many omens; by our first victories; by the present ardor and union; by the flight of Howe and the pestilence which broke out among Dunmore's people; by the very winds which baffled the enemy's fleets and transports, and that terrible tempest which engulfed seven hundred vessels upon the coast of Newfoundland. If we are not this day wanting in our duty to our country, the names of the American legislators will be placed, by posterity, at the side of those of Theseus, of Lycurgus, of Romulus of Numa, of the three Williams of Nassau, and of all those whose memory has been and will be forever dear to virtuous men and good citizens.


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