The following is a guest post by Craig McDonald

A note to the reader about this document:

Before delving into the modernized Declaration of Independence, we should follow the example of our founding fathers and look into the reasons why this volume is necessary. I mean, hasn’t the Declaration stood the test of time in its current form? Why does it matter that the language in the document is archaic? What’s the harm of the original language?

The answer to these questions is more complicated than I can adequately address in such an abbreviated medium. Suffice it to say, there are enough adults in this country who do not bother to comprehend the actual meaning of these historic and beautiful words beyond how they correlate with their own personal beliefs. For example, in the second paragraph, “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.—“. When read by a religious adherent, this sentence might seem to support that Mr. Jefferson (et al.) is referring to a deity as the Creator of humanity.

They see the paragraph with the following emphasis: “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…” In fact, the correct emphasis (as supported by the copious writings of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and many others) should be: “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

As you can clearly see, the original intent of the phrase can easily become muddled with the passage of time, the evolution of the language, and the existing prejudices of the reader. It is clear that Jefferson was not referring to the Judeo/Christian/Muslim deity when he wrote this passage. In fact, the entire Declaration, when properly understood as Jefferson intended, reads as a humanist manifesto, with the intention “to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent.”

And so it is with the intention of clarifying the original intent of some of the greatest thinkers of modern times that I humbly submit an individual English major’s interpretation of one of the most important documents in the history of the modern world: I present to you, the 21st century Declaration of Independence.

July 4, 1776. From the American hall of Congress.
As representatives from each of the thirteen United States of America, we unanimously declare the following:

There are times in life when events occur that make it necessary for one group of people to separate themselves from their previous government, including the breaking of all political allegiances and obligations that have bound the two together. The group that initiates the separation needs to assume sovereignty over their own affairs, and properly become a separate and independent nation, as is the right and nature of all free people. When this happens, it is important for the party that is breaking free to explain why the split became necessary, so that the international community will understand.

We assert that there are some things which are universally true. All humans are fundamentally equal, and they are endowed, by virtue of the common thread of birth on this planet, to certain rights which cannot be revoked. These rights include (but are not limited to) Life, Freedom, and Opportunity to seek one’s own happiness. We also hold that the purpose of Governments is to ensure that human beings are not deprived of those rights. We assert that when a government has repeatedly demonstrated its intention to withhold those rights from its citizens, then those citizens have a further right and responsibility to separate themselves from that Government, and to create their own. The foundation of this new government must be the same rights which we assert to be irrevocable, and it should be organized in a manner that is beneficial to that end.

It is wise to verify, before breaking away from a government, that these violations are in fact deliberate, and intended to strip the people of their rights, since it is a historical fact that humans tend to complain about things both with and without just cause. Most of the time, the things that people object to are normal conditions of life, and they can be dealt with without the admittedly extreme step of breaking away from their former government. However, when it has been proven by a constant series of abuses and rights violations that the former government is, in fact, trying to deliberately suppress the rights of its people, reducing their legal status to less than full citizens, then it is not only the right, but the duty of those people to walk away from the old authority and protect themselves against such oppression in the future. The Colonies of America have suffered in such a way for a very long time, and we see now that it is necessary to break away from the British Crown and to create our own government, as referenced above. What follows is a listing of our grievances against the British Crown in general, and King George III in particular. It seems obvious to us that the purpose of these actions has been to set up a harmful government—a Tyranny with George III at the head.

Our complaints are as follows:

He has broken his own laws, even the ones which would benefit the public.

He has prohibited his Governors from passing time-sensitive legislation until he provided his royal permission, and while his Governors were forced to wait for his decision, he completely ignored their concerns and failed to address them.

He has refused to allow communities to have their own legislative power, unless they agreed to give up their right to be represented in the government (which we maintain is another of the rights which are inviolable), an action that only a dictator would take.

He has unlawfully moved the meeting place of local legislations to inconvenient locations, trying to force the legislators to disregarding his blatantly illegal actions because they are simply too tired to fight them.

He has repeatedly broken up houses of representatives, because they had the courage to declare that his actions were illegal.

He delayed granting his permission for replacement legislations to be formed, which forced the general public to govern themselves, without any proper representative government. The effect was to leave the citizens vulnerable to hostile action from outside the territory, and civil unrest inside from inside.

He has actively worked to keep the population of States from growing by enacting unfair immigration laws, intended to prevent immigrants from becoming citizens, selectively refusing admission to some while allowing others, and illegally raising the costs of real estate throughout the Colonies.

He has interfered with our ability to enforce the laws by refusing to agree to rules for creating judges.

He has overruled the decisions of our judges, forcing them to accept his rulings, under threat of loss of livelihood, tenure and salary.

He has created a bureaucracy that has inundated our citizens with bureaucrats whose purpose is to harass and otherwise bother them.

During peacetime, he has stationed his armies in our homes, against the wishes of our legislature.

He has tried to establish military superiority over the civil government.

He has set up foreigners in illegal positions of authority over us, who we do not recognize as having that power.

For stationing his armed troops among us,

For giving them implicit permission to murder any citizen they desire, at their whim, with only a show trial for disciplinary action,

For preventing our free trade with other nations,

For establishing unfair and illegal taxes,

For frequently denying us the right of trial by jury,

For extraditing us overseas to answer to trumped up charges,

For bypassing British law in a nearby territory and setting up a puppet government there. Also giving them an unfair allotment of land, so as to set them up as an example of what allowing the British crown’s overreach would look like. This was, of course, a lie.

For removing our rights to self-govern, striking our most important laws, and tampering with the very fabric of our government,

For declaring our own government invalid, and asserting that he alone has the authority to make our laws in every case,

For all of these reasons and more, he has surrendered his claim to rule here, by proclaiming that we were no longer protected by his royal authority and attacking us.

He has attacked our coastal ports, burned our cities, and murdered our citizens.
Even as we write this document, he has hired large companies of mercenaries to carry out his violence, murder, and tyranny. These mercenaries behave abominably, engaging in acts of cruelty and treachery which we had hoped that as a species we had outgrown, and which is completely unbecoming of any modern nation.

He has coerced members of our navy to defect to his cause and to murder their fellow American citizens, on pain of death.

He has dishonestly encouraged mutiny within our own ranks, even agitating the Native inhabitants of this nation (who are known to be ruthless in war, and who uncaringly kill men, women and children, both healthy and infirm) to attack us.
Throughout all of this, we have politely and officially requested a redress of our grievances. Each such request was answered by a further attack on our way of life. Any king who treats his subjects in such a way can only be deemed a tyrant, and as such is not fit to rule a population of free thinking people.

It is not as though we have not given the British people their due notice. We have regularly warned them of the consequences involved in the overreach of their government. We have reminded them of the reasons that we came to these shores. We have tried to reach them with pleas to their personal sense of justice and mercy. And we have begged them to consider the family ties that bind us together, and thus to denounce their government and its tyranny, which we are convinced will lead inexorably to the disintegration of friendly relations between our nations. The British people have been every bit as unwilling to listen to our request for justice and hope. As a result, we must consider them to be every bit as much our enemies as is their king. We maintain hope that after the war is over, we might become friends again.

Therefore we officially declare, as representatives of the United States of America, assembled in General Congress, in an appeal to the universal principles of justice and humanity, with all the authority vested in us by the good citizens of these Colonies, that these United Colonies are free and independent states. Furthermore, they are no longer bound to the British Crown in any way, and all political connection with the state of Great Britain is completely dissolved. As free and independent states, they will have the authority to wage war, negotiate peace treaties, form alliances, set up trade agreements and to do every other function of government that any other independent state can do. To that end and with a firm dependence on the protection of the principles of justice which are shared by all sentient beings, we promise that we will protect our new nation with our honor, our wealth, and our lives if need be .