It may surprise my American readers to know that until today I had never even read a copy of your declaration of independence, not a single line of it! So it really was about time I remedied that.
I hope you will forgive me a somewhat rambling post which just reflects my personal feelings whilst reading it. It felt kind of like reading a set of divorce papers which paved the way for the “special relationship” that we now share. It is of course not entirely unlike the relationship some divorced couples manage to attain- especially for the sake of the children. In a funny sort of way, at least on this side of the Atlantic it sometimes feels as if we still see many of the nations of the world as being dependent on us. The current state of interest around the G8 summitt certainly doesnt minimise that feeling. One Yank (Bill Gates!) who I watched briefly on the Televised Live8 concert seemed anxious to praise Tony Blair and Gordon Brown for their leadership on the issue of world poverty.
Of course we Brits have the dubious priviledge of having educated the world about “liberty” and “freedom” whilst at the same time oppressing them to such an extent that we spawned nation state after nation state when the population wanted their independence.
It would seem that we Brits were busy trying to rule the entire world whilst all the time believing we were spreading democracy around. Bizzarely even in Hong Kong we never actually implemented democracy before leaving, but expect the Chinese from whom we rented the territory to do so after we left without even for a moment considering that hippocritical! When asked about why he stays in Africa, the character of Gefferey in the film Six Degrees of Separation gives the somewhat trite reply that has at least to one interpretation of history a certain ring of truth to it- “One has to stay there. To educate the black workers. And we’ll know we’ve been successful when they kill us.”
There is a large portion of our history that the English are far from proud of. I remember well that as a child the whole period of the history of our empire was somewhat brushed over in our history lessons. We skipped from Oliver Cromwell to 1914. Somehow, and not at all surprisingly we seemed more confident with our roll as the champion of freedom in the 20th Century’s wars than our previous one in building the largest empire the world has ever known.
Arguably the ideals of the document I will quote from below are not of course fully realised even today. But the ideas expressed in this document have power, and whilst we still have a monarch in the UK the fact that it would simply not be possible for that monarch to act in such a tyranical manner may in no small sense be partly thanks to the actions of our American cousins as we now like to call them.
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.