Declaration of Independence

Today we celebrate our nation's birthday!  The Fourth of July was made into a federal holiday in 1941, but it was celebrated every year since the day it was first announced.
Continental Congress

Here are those famous words in italics and the other words are an interpretation of those words:

"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."

Here, the Declaration is stating that the colonies deserve to be free and move away from Great Britain.
Independence Hall

"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. 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 a 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.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn (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.  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.  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."

Here, the Declaration states the people in the colonies have the right to govern themselves.  It states they should be able to secure their own way of life, their own freedom and be able to find happiness in the way that fits them best.  They should not have to answer to a king who ignores their wishes.
King George III

What follows next are a list of grievances against King George III of England.  Each grievance shows how the king infringes upon the liberties of the colonists, how the king ignores their basic rights, and most importantly how the king forces his policies on the colonists even when they argue against them.  When the Declaration mentions Despotism, they are referring to all these grievances and how the King ignores the voice of the people.  A despot is a ruler with absolute power.  This is something the colonists will not allow any longer.

"In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the must 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."

Here it states that the colonies have sent their complaints to the king who has simply ignored them OR has punished them because of their complaints.  A tyrant is a ruler who exercises absolute power by oppressing the people below them.
Thomas Jefferson

"Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British 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 iterrupt 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."

Here, the Declaration addresses how the colonists have tried again and again to appeal to loyal British subjects and explain their situation.  Every time they did, they were rebuffed, or turned away. No one would listen to them.  Even when they explained that the very reason they came to this new land was to find a degree of freedom that was not being ripped away from them.  Since no one would listen to them, they declare that those who will not listen to them, will not become their enemies.
John Hancock

"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 the 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."

Here, in this section you can see the words of the Lee Resolution almost verbatim.  Here is where the new nation declares itself free and independent of Great Britain.  This is where it states the tie between them is null and void - does not exist any longer.  After this paragraph, the members of the Continental Congress signed the declaration to send to Great Britain and King George III.
Benjamin Rush

Most know the story of John Hancock - where it states he signed his name SO BIG so King George could read it without his spectacles, but the story is simply a legend that has taken on a life of its own.

If you look very closely to the actual document, you can see the signature of this author's ancestor - Richard Stockton from New Jersey.  His daughter married another signer - Benjamin Rush from Pennsylvania.

Richard Stockton, Mrs. Hoffman, Righty, American, and  Lefty

On this momentous day, let us recall not only those men who sacrificed so much for independence against a tyrant, but let us remember all the men and women in the military who continue to volunteer to fight against tyranny across the world.  All men and women in the world deserve Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Enjoy your Fourth of July,

Mrs. Hoffman.

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