Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Little Christmas Amid the Heat

With the intense heat and humidity that so many of us have endured this summer, my thoughts will at times take me back in time to cooler, gentler days.  One such memory involves, once again, my grandfather.

My grandpa was the world and everything in it as far as I was concerned.  He was a man of deep principles and an amazing discipline.  He was a hard worker who took great pride and even greater pride in his family.

We were a small family living in a home of simple pleasures.  We enjoyed Sunday dinners together each and every week.  During the summer, the happiest part of the day came when my mother arrived home from work.  We ate dinner, waited the appropriate amount of time for the food to settle, and then we were off to the pool for a swim.

But one of the greatest pleasures I had was the annual decorating of the Christmas tree.  My grandpa enjoyed the season but one of the traditions of the season that he didn't look forward to was the purchase of the Christmas Tree.  He put it off for as long as he could and then, finally, at the insistence of my grandma, he headed out on a usually inclement night, to pick the family tree.

What he brought back usually, could barely be called a tree.  Because he waited so long, often the only trees left in the Christmas Tree lot were the "orphans."  These were the trees that had been rejected by everybody else because they just weren't quite good enough.

Our tree was usually scrawny.  There were holes and gaps where most trees had branches.  Its needles seem to drop off at a mere thought.  And its trunk was usually rather serpentine, making it very difficult for my grandpa to line it up in the stand so that the tree would appear straight as an arrow.

Below, you will find a poem that I wrote many years ago about this annual ritual in my home when I was a child.  In the poem you have my grandpa and grandma, along with me.  While there is no mention of my mother, rest assured, she was right there, helping to decorate this poor creature with the rest of us.

But the main character in the poem is not my grandpa or grandma.  It isn't my mother and it certainly isn't me.  No, the main "character" of the poem is love.  That is what my home was filled with and it was no more powerful and evident than at Christmas.  And that is what I hope you get from this little piece.  I was fortunate to have grown up in a home of love and peace, the same kind of love and peace that was bestowed upon the world with the birth of Jesus Christ.

So, now, as we all await some fresh, cool, and dry air to break the awful heat of this long summer, allow yourself to be taken back many years to that little living room in my home as the four of us, grandma, grandpa, my mother and I gathered 'round "The Old Man and His Tree."

The Old Man
And his tree

He was a proud man
Who year after year
Brought into our home
A sad, misshapen fir.

He was happy to shelter
Those poor misfit trees
Giving them a place of honor
With dignity and ease.

Proudly he set the tree
In its proper place.
Adjusting to the right, then left
Till it filled that corner space.

“gaps and branches Must be covered,”
Said his wife of many years
As about the tree she hovered
Concealing her laughter’s tears.

Dutifully he twisted
The oh so crooked boughs
Until, upon inspection,
It passed my grandma’s browse.

From the basement came boxes
Filled with ornaments and lights.
They were thoroughly examined
With anticipation and delight.

Carols of the season
Warmed the room
As he took his seat
Taking in pine perfume.

Lights were first
Upon the orphaned tree.
And as they were strung
Something began happening magically.

His cigar smoke circled
Above his old bald head
As the tree took shape
The homely, now somehow beautiful instead.

He smiled and hummed
As the ornaments were fixed.
And we were cheerful
To have the right color mix.

Tinsel was then hung
As the lights danced to and fro.
Christmas filled the room
With its special kind of glow.

I climbed the shaky ladder
And reached for the tree top.
I placed a shining star gently
And all came to a stop.

Oh, for those days
When an old man and his tree
Became a powerful symbol
Of his special love for me.

Silent night, holy night.
The gentlest night of the year.
I fondly remember grandpa
With a sentimental tear.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Ground Zero Cross

I didn't think much could shock me these days what with the so-called leaders in Washington "working" on debt limit legislation like a bunch of kindergartners at recess.  However, I am wrong.  Once again, I have been shocked and at the same time outraged.

First, just a little background.  On September 13, 2001, just two days after the nightmare of 9/11, one of the rescuers picking very carefully and slowly through the dangerous heap that used to be the World Trade Center, discovered three bodies.  He signaled to his fellow workers and the bodies were carefully and respectfully removed.  Looking further, this rescuer noticed something unusual among the unbelievable devastation.  There, in the midst of the giant stack of rubble were two steel beams that had been sheared off in the form of a cross.

This brave, hardened rescuer dropped to his knees and began to cry.  He brought others to the area in which the cross was located.  No one could believe their eyes.  Cranes were quickly moved in and the several ton cross was carefully removed.  Those pieces of broken steel became a focal point for all who continued to search for more victims of the worst attack on US shores.

Eventually, the cross was removed from the site as the pile of broken buildings was hauled away and taken to its new temporary home, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in lower Manhattan.  There it has remained, a symbol of hope and love found in the middle of the horror of that day in September.

Now, as the 9/11 Memorial Museum takes shape at Ground Zero, the cross has been moved to become one of the artifacts that will be on display for public viewing.  Many are drawn to this powerful icon of hope and comfort.  However, in the political correct lunacy that dominates this society, a move has been made to stop the placing of the cross on the site.

An organization called American Atheists has filed suit in court to remove the cross claiming that the placement of the cross is actually promoting Christianity.  David Silverman, a spokesman for the group seems to be angry that there will be no symbol on the premises to honor those non-believers who died in the attack.  He supposedly is upset that no other religious symbol will be on display including a symbol that represents the nothingness of his beliefs.  In other words, there will be nothing in place to represent nothing!

Silverman, in his apparent blind anger and hate for anything Christian, actually blames Jesus for the attacks on the World Trade Center.  He said that the Christian God "couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people to be killed in his name."

It is hard to say how this will turn out and whether or not the WTC Cross will be allowed to remain as a centerpiece in the museum.  But what is clear is that elements of this society have clearly lost their minds.  So many of those of the same persuasion of Mr. Silverman demand that the Muslims be allowed to build a mosque just a stone's throw from Ground Zero.  Yet, a cross, created from the chaos of that horrible morning, is not proper to be put into a museum where thousands lost their lives.

I didn't really believe that there was a concerted effort in this country to eliminate Christianity from society.  However, this action of the American Atheists, along with nearly countless other examples of actions taken to remove any vestige of the Christian faith from society, has begun to convince me otherwise.

It is time for we who believe in Jesus Christ and call ourselves Christians, to stand up for this beautiful faith, a faith that far more people belong to than any other in the United States.  We cannot allow this lunacy to continue.  For too long, Christians have remained silent on such things and, as a result, many Christian traditions that had deep meaning for many have been declared unconstitutional and removed from sight.  Take for example the annual battles of municipalities against their own citizens who want to erect manger scenes to commemorate the birth of Christ on the court house square, a practice which often has gone back for decades.  In nearly every instance,  a law is passed, a court ruling decreed to remove the "offending" display of religious fervor.

We must pray continually as Jesus urged us to do so.  But we must also make our voices heard.  Believe it or not, despite what the media or Washington politicians say, there are issues that are far more important than the current subject that have been debated ad nauseum for weeks on end to no avail.

We cannot allow our religious rights and freedom of speech be eroded any longer.  Pray, get involved by watching your representatives, federal, state, and local.  Write letters, protest and always do so in imitation of the Master we claim to follow.  We must be firm but gentle in our approach but if we value our religious freedom, we cannot sit idly back and watch it be taken away.  This would be a far worse legacy to hand to the younger generations than trillions of dollars of debt!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grandpa and The Old Front Porch

Its funny how this hot weather, miserable and seemingly unending, has managed to spark some pleasant memories that have taken me back to simpler, more carefree days.  Life passes us by at such a rapid rate that nearly everything now appears as a blur that no sooner appears on one horizon and, before you know it, disappears over the other.  Maybe that's a product of growing older or maybe it's just the world becoming more and more complex.  Or, perhaps, it may be a combination of those two.  Whatever the reason, my world is flying by all too fast.

As I said, the hot weather, this endless stretch of one hundred degree plus days triggered my memories of times that have long since come and gone.  The house I grew up in on Summer Street was not a large house.  It had a couple of bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and something a bit bigger than a walk-in closet called a kitchen.  Across the front of the house stretched a comfortable old porch that served as a second home to us during the hot summer months.

There are many pleasures connected with my childhood, most revolving that old house on the tree-lined brick street.  Many of those memories center on that front porch.  The porch was at one time completely open.  Built in the mid-twenties, it was a perfect meeting place for neighbors who would gather in those days to talk and share the news of the day in lieu of cable, satellite, or incessant Internet surfing.  It was on these steps and on the porch swing that these neighbors became more of an extended family than just a group of people living in close proximity of one another.  Lives intertwined.  People became involved in one another's day-to-day activities because they were close to each other and knew practically everything there was to know about the other.

By the time I was born and began my journey through childhood, my grandpa had the porch closed in.  Now, instead of wide-open space, there were screens in the summertime and windows in the winter.  Still, that old porch was a meeting place of the neighborhood.  In those days (the 1950's) people seldom moved from where they may have lived for thirty or forty years.  The only thing that had changed since the house was built in the twenties was the fact that now the neighbors could enjoy themselves on a hot summer evening sitting behind the protection of screens.  No more constant swatting of mosquitoes or rain blowing in during a summer evening thunderstorm.

I played on that porch constantly.  It was my summer home in the days before air conditioning became commonplace.  At one end of the porch hung a beautiful old porch swing that had seen many, many seasons come and go.  It was the pride of the room.  My grandfather babied that beloved piece of furniture as though it were an infant.  He would carefully hang it from several massive hooks anchored to the ceiling every spring as the first hint of warm weather arrived.  During the long winter, he cleaned and painted it despite the fact that the swing took up a good part of the basement.  Throughout the summer, he invited people to sit and have a swing, joking that it would be the only breeze they'd feel on a summer's night.  As the cool air of fall arrived and we were forced inside, he would carefully remove the swing from the hooks and take it to the basement where another season of babying this prize possession would take place.

The rest of the porch was populated with various kinds of comfortable chairs all made of the heaviest gauge of metal or thick wood.  There was not a piece of plastic in sight!  Seems like everyone had their assigned seating.  My grandfather sat on the side of the porch opposite the swing.  It was here that he assumed his role as king of his castle.  I remember with fondness those long ago Sundays.

My grandmother and grandfather always attended the 10:00 AM Mass on Sunday.  My mother and I would follow at the 11:00 o'clock Mass.  While we were in church, my grandmother started the weekly food fest.  She would often fix fried chicken, mashed potatoes, some sort of a vegetable and very often, in the heart of the summer, she would slice giant tomato slices that had been purchased from one of the many roadside stands in the countryside surrounding the little Midwestern village I grew up in.  Often, a pie served as dessert.  To my grandpa, no meal was a meal without dessert!

After Mass, we would come home, anticipating what dinner might be.  We didn't have to wait long.  The minute we hit the driveway the aroma of our meal was apparent, hanging over the house like some sweet perfume.  We rushed into the house and were greeted with the sound of the chicken sizzling in an oversize iron skillet.  The house was so small, that you could see the front porch from the kitchen and there would be grandpa, sitting in his chair on porch, devouring the Sunday paper, cigar smoke swirling about his head.  He loved a good cigar and to this day, on those rare occasions when I smell cigar smoke, this image of grandpa comes to mind.

Once the meal was served, we often jumped into the family car for a Sunday afternoon ride.  It was the thing to do in those days.   Since there was no cable TV, Internet, or DVD's, DVR's or anything else electronic, it was our form of entertainment.  We often road into the country just south of town to visit some of grandpa's relatives still living on farms that their families established decades ago.  The adults would talk over the "good ole days" while the kids ran through the yard playing tag or some other innocent childhood game.  Late in the afternoon, we'd head back home for an evening on the porch.

Grandpa would assume his usual position on the porch, light up another cigar, and simply watch the world go by.  Grandma would finish dishes from the light evening meal and join us soon after she was done.  My mother deated herself in the swing gently pushing herself back and forth.  I would often bring my toys to the porch and spread them out on the floor.  It was a wonder sometimes that anyone could even get through the clutter.  But no one seemed to mind.

Occasionally, a neighbor would drop by for some conversation, fanning themselves with an ad from that day's paper long since discarded by my grandpa.  The talk would revolve around the kids, what they were doing and how they were.  Tales of the grandchildren lit up the night with smiles and laughter.  As the sun set, we watched with awe as the summer sky, while only a few moments ago white hot with the blinding sun, began to fill in with the colors of dusk.  The glowing embers of my grandfather's cigar became brighter as the sun sunk closer and closer to the horizon.  Finally, it seemed like the sun would hesitate just as it intersected with the earth as if to bid us all a pleasant evening.  And then, in the twinkling of an eye, it would disappear for another day.

Our guest would linger for a little while longer and then announce that it was getting late and head off for home.  As my grandpa's cigar shortened I knew my bedtime grew nearer.  I played on, trying to push the clock back a little so that the day would magically be longer and I could stay up till the wee hours.  It never worked and regular as clock work, once the cigar was extinguished, it was time for a bath and then bed.  The newspaper would be gathered up, the chairs straightened, and the screen door locked as life headed into the house for the rest of the day.

This cycle was repeated day in and day out for years until the summer of 1962 when it was discovered that my beloved grandpa had some strange disease called cancer. I knew he was sick because he began to lose a great deal of weight in a short amount of time and the energy he once had seemed to be gone.  Still, he loved his porch and would retreat to it every time he had the chance and felt up to it.  It was his comfort zone long before that term became a popular cliche.  He spent many hours of his last summer on that porch, taking in life in a different way than he had before.

He reminisced more often about the old days, days of his childhood on the farm and his time in the army in Paris during WWI when he served as an MP.  There were times when tears came to his eyes talking about me growing up but, because I was only nine that summer, I didn't quite understand why the sadness.  I just knew that everything would be alright as long as he sat on the porch, puffing away at his cigar.  But those times dwindled and  as the summer wore on and he became weaker and weaker because of the chemo he suffered through.  But, he had his porch.  That porch was like a healing balm to him mainly because when he sat on it family and friends would follow.  He loved his family and friends so dearly.

We lost him in April, 1964.  There was a cold snap in April that year and the day he was laid to rest in the Catholic cemetery south of town was a cold day indeed.  It was hard for me to believe that my grandpa, the only grandfather I ever knew, would no longer sit on the one end of that porch with his cigar lit, pouring over the newspaper.  No more would stories of the old days or debates about the day's political happenings echo on that porch quite like they once had.  There would be no more funny stories of family doing the goofy things that bind them together in unique ways.

As the years went by and I grew, I still spent a good amount of time in that place.  The porch swing was still hung every spring but it wasn't as well kept as when my grandfather was around.  Usually, one of the men in the neighborhood kindly hung it and took it down until I was old enough to perform the task myself.  My grandmother, saddened for the rest of her life by the departure of the greatest love she had ever known, used to sit on the porch in the evenings with my mother and I.  But, somehow, without that lit cigar and telltale red glow with curls of smoke wafting through the room, it just wasn't the same.

As time moved on, I moved away, started a family of my own and the porch faded into the background of my life.  Years later, the house was sold to the school district so that a new school could be erected on the site.   The house, along with the porch, was not torn down, however.  It was moved to the other side of town where, to this day, it sits, providing comfort and shelter to another family.  I seriously doubt, however, that they use the porch like we did.  They're probably all huddled indoors like most of the rest of us in air conditioned comfort, never knowing of the pleasures that old room once provided.

The old porch and my grandpa who loved it as much as a place can be loved, still linger on that porch--at least in my memory.  There, my grandmother, my mother, my grandfather, and I all collect on summer evenings to take in the sights, sounds, and smells from that old front porch.  And in those moments, life pauses to once again sweeten my life, and then moves on.  They, and it, will be with me for the rest of my days.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christmas in July

Now, in the midst of the great heat wave of "11, I found myself wandering back in my memory only six months back as we awaited the arrival of Christmas.  Thanksgiving had already come and gone and the weather, in typical St. Louis style in December, couldn't make up its mind whether it was early October or January.

Everyone was busy making preparations for the big day.  There was shopping to be done, menus to be planned and executed, and last minute decorations to be added to what was already up for that perfect touch.  Christmas carols were being sung over and over again on all radio stations.  Some stations had actually been playing them since November 1st.  Nearly everyone was beginning to experience that holiday lift, a feeling of joy and festiveness that isn't felt at any other time of the year in this way.

There was the feeling of "its too bad we don't have this Christmas spirit year round!"  It is a spirit of good will towards all we meet.  We smile more easily during this run-up to the biggest day of the year.  Exhausted, there is a refreshing feel to everything we do because we knew that in only a few days we would be getting together with family and friends to celebrate the season often following long-standing traditions begun years ago.  Or maybe there was the added joy of a newborn coming into the family since the last Christmas.  There was, indeed, a magic feel to the air.

Then came the big day.  Christmas passed as swiftly as all days do, but for some reason, Christmas Day always seems to go a little faster.  The clock seems to have sped up some, leaving us to wonder just where time goes.  A sumptuous meal was enjoyed, gifts opened, all while we were cozily gathered in a warm home while outside the White Christmas we all had hoped for, had come.

Before we knew it, the day was over.  And we were all saying to ourselves, "where does the time go?"   Once again, as darkness falls and the reality of the hum drum day to day existence we all feel we lead comes to mind, we said to ourselves, "its too bad this spirit doesn't last throughout the year!"

Now that Christmas is but a distant memory and things like pools, camping trips, vacations, air conditioning, and heat indexes preoccupy our minds, my question to you is this:  What have you done to ensure that the Christmas spirit that you reveled in just six short months ago, is still alive?

I'm not talking about the presents or the meals.  I'm not talking about the wish for snow or a myriad of things that all of us anticipate in the Christmas season.  No, I am not talking about that.  What I am talking about is the joy that underlies all of the Christmas season.

It is joy, not presents, that accounts for the feeling of well-being during the days and weeks leading to that special day.  It is joy that prompts us to want to share time with friends and family, celebrating the season that initiated our salvation.  It is joy that brings us together around a table, some lavish, some sparse, to break bread together in honor of the Savior whose birth has brought about eternity for us.

The Spirit of Christmas should live in us all throughout the whole year.  That is obvious.  But it is difficult to bring it to day-to-day life because of our cares and concerns.  We live thinking about tomorrow, forgetting about today and the opportunity it brings to once again recapture the joy of God become man even a half a year away from that celebration.

Mention the fact that Christmas in only a few months off and you're liable to hear something like, "don't mention it.  It'll be hear too soon."  Yet, do we mean that?  I think most of us are reacting to the hustle and bustle that most of us fling ourselves into willingly, only to complain about it as we exhaust ourselves for all the wrong reasons.

Now, in July, is a great time to truly examine where our hearts are, apart from all the clamor of the season.  Do we really experience the joy of Christmas in our lives and live out that joy as though Christmas was only a few days off?  What relationships do we need to mend so that we can truly celebrate the joy of Christmas day in and day out.  What have we done for others just because we feel so blessed in our lives and it just seems like the right thing to do?

And what about God?  Where do we stand in our relationship with Him?  Do we celebrate His love and mercy in our lives every day?  Do we truly feel the warmth of His love just as we did when we gazed upon a manger scene under the tree or through a decorated store window?

Christmas in July!  It sounds like an advertising campaign, but if you think about it, it can be the perfect antidote to the dog days of summer when many of us become bored with life and feel somewhat empty as we pass through the seemingly endless days of oppressive heat and humidity.  But Christmas doesn't have to be limited to July.  We can have it in February, August, May, September, or any month of the year as long as we keep in mind the song of the angels on that night when Christ was born.  "Peace on Earth and to men of good will!"

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Sacred Document

On this weekend, America and Americans pause to celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day.   There is no end to community fireworks displays from the humble ones of small town America to the splashy, extravagant ones of places like New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.  There are family gatherings and cook outs.  There are parades with men on stilts dressed as Uncle Sam.  There are heroic air shows, demonstrating the might an power of the United States military.  Mostly, the weekend is a time for all of us to get away from the daily grind of life and work, a time to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.

But this holiday that commemorates the birth of this great nation is far more than these things.  It should be a time of reflection, of self-discovery, and of determination that what was begun 235 years ago, shall remain an example of the best of society.

We must remember the great men who debated the issue of Independence, who put their ideas and opinions forward, sometimes heatedly, as they tried to bring a nation into being.  We remember Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Rutledge, Hancock, Livingston, and all the others gathered together in stifling hot Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia to hammer out a response the the British intrusion into the colonies' lives.  Ultimately, through passionate debate, squabbling, name calling and outright hostility in some cases, these men, even though their actions could and, in some cases did, bring about their deaths, created what we now know today as the Declaration of Independence.

Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the document was hotly debated and edited to reflect the views of the diverse colonies.  In the end, it was approved by a unanimous vote with New York abstaining.  In that moment, when it was seen that all of the colonies voted in favor of Independence, the United States of America was born.

It was not a perfect nation by any means.  Slavery was a thriving business.  Women had very few formal rights and most were uneducated.  Men had all the political power.  But it was by far the most powerful expression ever created by a political body of man's natural right to be free.

Have you ever read the entire Declaration?  Most of us, if not all, can recite the opening line.  "When in the course of human events..."  A powerful opening, indeed, but there is even more power and majesty later in this statement of man's desire and right to freedom.  As a document measured by today's standards, it would never have seen the light of day.  It is not politically correct.  It pulls no punches.  It mentions God.  And, yet, we today, in this the 21st century, owe our very existence as a nation and a people to these words written so long ago in a time of supreme crisis.

I urge you to take a few minutes out of a busy holiday schedule to read the text of this amazing and inspiring document below.  It takes some reading and some of the language is a bit archaic, but ponder the words and take them in.  Feel the power behind them and know that whether you are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or of any other ethnic background, if you are a citizen of this magnificent country, these words are your heritage.  They are who we are and are still very relevant 235 years after they were first proclaimed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.  We must give thanks to a God who gave us men in an age of crisis who rose to the occasion and triumphed over their own biases and fears to move forward into the future with confidence in their principles and in God Himself.

Happy 4th of July

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
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.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.