The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States of America, which unilaterally declared a separation from Britain, and was adopted by the Continental Congress on 4th July, 1776.
The chief author and person responsible for this declaration was Thomas Jefferson (qv), who had based his argument on John Locke’s philosophy of contractual government. The rightly celebrated foreword announced that all men are created equal (which presumably includes slaves), and have inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is quite clear about this: it does not state ‘rights to life, liberty and happiness’.
In the Declaration there then follows a longish list of the tyrannies of George III, King of England, his Ministers, Parliament, Armies and Navies, against the American people (who with the signing of the document had just become American people, not foreign settlers). The American people apparently did not include the Native American population, who had to bite both the bullet and the dust (oddly enough, the Declaration of Independence is rather similar to the 1689 Bill of Rights in the United Kingdom, whose conditions were required before inviting Dutch William (III) and his wife Mary to become joint sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Bill said the King could not levy taxes without the consent of Parliament, and that he did not have the power to suspend or dispense with any laws, and that there must not be a standing army without Parliament’s consent. It was believed that King James II’s actions were a threat to a guarantee of Englishmen’s liberties. This was the so-called Glorious Revolution, in which an anointed monarch was deposed by a powerful group of revolutionaries mainly because he was a Catholic, and Catholicism was seen as a threat to the Protestant Church. How often we have seen how clever politicians use religion as a tool to gain their own ends).
The original Declaration of Independence was signed 56 men, who became known as ‘The Signers’. If America has an aristocracy, it is formed by persons whose surnames appeared (in secret for fear of reprisals) in the Declaration. Certainly if Britain had won the inevitable war of independence that followed the Declaration, the fifty-six would have been in hot trouble.
The Declarations of Indulgence were four proclamations issued by two kings, Charles II and James II (qv) of England in a desperate attempt to achieve religious toleration in a country not known for tolerance of anything.
Charles made his Declarations in 1662 and 1672. They stated that the penal laws against Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters were to be suspended. Protests natually followed in Parliament and neither declaration was accepted or adopted. James made similar declarations in 1687 and 88. The latter led to charged being brought against seven bishops: James insisted that the Declaration should be read publically in the churches; Tory cleric Bishop Sancroft and six other bishops who refused to sanction the order were tried on a charge of seditious libel. All seven were acquitted.
The verdict was a popular one, and encouraged widespread protests, rioting and defiance, during the months leading to the Glorious Revolution mentioned above.