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July 2nd, 2008

United States of America Declares Its Independence (Jury Trials Are One Reason)

The vote was taken by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, as the British fleet approached New York. True, we celebrate on July 4th, after the Declaration had been printed and adopted, but today is the anniversary of the vote when the lives, fortunes and honors of the declarants was put at risk.

Fortunately, you can read a live-blog of the event (perhaps in part to a flux capacitor on a De Lorean inspired time machine).

John Adams writes to his wife:

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

It’s a good day to read the text of our Declaration. And to inspire you to read the rest — though I doubt such inspiration is actually needed and I’m doing this just because I want to — I’ll quote the first part…

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.

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 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 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….

It is worth noting that in the long bill of particulars of injuries and usurpations directed toward the colonists, is this:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

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