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ENGLISH CLASSIC SERIES--No. 78.
BY FREDERICK W. OSBORN,
BROOKLYN, N. Y.
A COMPLETE COURSE IN THE STUDY OF ENGLISH.
Spelling, Language, Grammar, Composition, Literature.
Reed's Word Lessons—A Complete Speller.
Kellogg's Text-Book on English Literature.
In the preparation of this series the authors have had one object
771 Broadway, New York,
COPYRIGHT, 1890, BY
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
The first battle in the war for independence had taken place in April 1775. Since that time the colonies of New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina had been invaded by considerable armies. The king of Great Britain had issued a proclamation calling for volunteers to put down the rebellion, and had succeeded in hiring twenty thousand German troops to fight against his American subjects. Notwithstanding this state of affairs the colonies were not all agreed as to the wisdom of breaking with the mo:her country. Two of the leading colonies, however, Massachusetts and Virginia, were strongly in favor of such action. Accordingly on the 7th of June, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced into Congress the following resolution:—" That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved.” -A committee of five consisting of Franklin, Sherman, Livingston, John Adams and Jefferson, were appointed to draw up such a declaration and present it to Congress. The committee unanimously agreed to leave the draft of the document to Jeffer
He submitted it to Adams and Franklin separately, for their inspection and correction, but they made but few changes in it and these were verbal. It was presented to Congress on the 2d of July, by which body it was thoroughly discussed, and some important changes were made. In particular, a passage was stricken out in which Jefferson denounced George III. for encouraging the slave-trade, and also another in which the English people are described as unfeeling brethren.”
" We must endeavor to forget our former love for them and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.”
It was generally agreed that it would be wise to make no reflections upon the attitude of the English people. At length on July 4th, after a famous debate in which John Adams favored and John Dickinson of Pennsylvania opposed the adoption, the Declaration was adopted, all the States voting for it except New York, this State adding its approval five days later.
As a political fact the adoption of the Declaration is a landmark in our history. It marks the beginning of the history of the United States as a nation. For the first time the people of the colonies through their representatives in Congress declare themselves a distinct and separate political body. They assume the righte and powers which nations alone assume to exercise and upon the continued maintenance of which their political existence must depend. A series of causes had for many years been leading up to this event, and it is impossible to exaggerate its influence upon our subsequent political history.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Albemarle County, Va., April 2, 1743, and died at Monticello, July 4, 1826. He was one of the most distinguished statesmen of his time and his sentiments and political policy have left a permanent influence upon our institutions and government.
He was graduated at the age of nineteen from the college of William and Mary. At the age of twenty-six he was chosen to represent his county in the legislature of Virginia, and at once took an active part with those who were disposed to resist the encroachments of parliament. Between 1773 and 1775 he had written several bold and forcible state papers-one entitled, “A Summary View of the Rights of British Americans”; another,“ A Reply to Lord North’s Conciliatory Proposition,”—which had already established his reputation as an able advocate of constitutional freedom, and as an accomplished writer. The authorship of the Declaration added greatly to his fame both at home and abroad.
From 1776 to 1779 he was actively engaged as a member of the legislature, in accomplishing important reforms in his own State, and in 1779 he was elected Governor. After the ratification of the treaty of peace with Great Britain, in 1783, it became desirable to negotiate commercial treaties with foreign nations, and Jefferson was appointed minister to Europe for that purpose in company with Franklin and John Adams. Franklin having resigned as minister to France in 1785, Jefferson was appointed to succeed him. He was absent from the country during the formation of the Constitution, and it is well known that that document did not altogether meet his approval. Soon after his return to this country in 1789, he was offered the position of secretary of state in the cabinet of Washington. Notwithstanding his desire to return to France he concluded to accept it. In this position he became the recognized leader of the party opposed to a strong government as represented by Hamilton. After retaining this office somewhat more than four years he resigned and retired to Monticello.