Parallels Between the Declaration of Independence and the Demands of Today’s Activists


So many posts about gun rights and freedom of speech today, the 4th of July, despite the fact that neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights existed in 1776.

However, this did lead me to re-read the Declaration of Independence and I was struck by the specific use of the word “oppressions” to describe a list of several dozen complaints against the king. Some include his decision to send officers to “harass our people,” his obstruction of the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners and refusal to “encourage their migrations,” and for “quartering large bodies of armed troops among us,” while “protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.” 

If I was to compile a list of grievances drawn from justice movements across the country I imagine the list of demands might be remarkably similar: stop sending officers to harass our people; stop obstructing laws for the naturalization of immigrants — instead, encourage their migrations; and stop protecting officers from punishment who murder inhabitants of these States.

I’m also struck by other language decisions in this document. For instance, references to “merciless Indian Savages” ought to remind us all that thinking about July 4th as “Independence Day” represents only one version of this history while intentionally erasing many others.