Declaration Of Arms Before Independence

Photo credit: Dyanna Hyde (Flickr)

Most everyone knows about America’s 1776 Declaration of Independence. But did you know that on July 6 a year earlier, Congress initiated a Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms?

It’s true. According to History, on July 6, 1775, just a day after our Founding Fathers issued their Olive Branch Petition to King George III, Congress gave just reason for taking up arms against Great Britain. In the declaration, they wrote they would rather “die freemen rather than to live slaves.”

Three months earlier, patriot resistance and “the shot heard round the world” had fired off in Lexington and Concord. And now, it was time for our founders and Congress to square off against the king himself.

The lengthier name is ‘A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms.’ It was primarily the work of Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson; the former penned the first draft, and the latter produced the final draft.

Of course, Jefferson needs no introduction and is well-known as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. And Dickinson, though he is not a household name today, was a household name in his day.

Known as the “Penman of the Revolution,” Dickinson was referred to by Jefferson as being “among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain.” His name, Jefferson said, “will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution.”

Dickinson was a militia officer during the Revolution, a member of the Continental Congress from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, president of Delaware, and president of Pennsylvania.

It is fascinating how the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms begins in the same vein as the Declaration of Independence, noting how human life and our inalienable rights are from God and that no man has the right to usurp them.

Listen to the echoes: “If it was possible for men, who exercise their reason to believe, that the divine Author of our existence intended a part of the human race to hold an absolute property in, and an unbounded power over others, marked out by his infinite goodness and wisdom, as the objects of a legal domination never rightfully resistible, however severe and oppressive, the inhabitants of these colonies might at least require from the parliament of Great-Britain some evidence, that this dreadful authority over them, has been granted to that body. But a reverance for our Creator, principles of humanity, and the dictates of common sense, must convince all those who reflect upon the subject, that government was instituted to promote the welfare of mankind, and ought to be administered for the attainment of that end.”

One might see that as a first draft of sorts for the summation that would come a year later: “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.”

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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom

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