Quotations about   Declaration of Independence

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One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom — not only for political independence, but for personal liberty — not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men. That struggle was a turning point in our history. Today in far corners of distant continents, the ideals of those American patriots still shape the struggles of men who hunger for freedom. This is a proud triumph. Yet those who founded our country knew that freedom would be secure only if each generation fought to renew and enlarge its meaning.

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973) American poltician, educator, US President (1963-69)
Speech, Signing the Civil Rights Act (2 Jul 1964)
Added on 13-Jul-16 | Last updated 13-Jul-16
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The truest American president we have ever had, the companion of Washington in our love and honor, recognized that the poorest man, however outraged, however ignorant, however despised, however black, was, as a man, his equal. The child of the American people was their most prophetic man, because, whether as small shop-keeper, as flat-boatman, as volunteer captain, as honest lawyer, as defender of the Declaration, as President of the United States, he knew by the profoundest instinct and the widest experience and reflection, that in the most vital faith of this country it is just as honorable for an honest man to curry a horse and black a boot as it is to raise cotton or corn, to sell molasses or cloth, to practice medicine or law, to gamble in stocks or speculate in petroleum. He knew the European doctrine that the king makes the gentleman; but he believed with his whole soul the doctrine, the American doctrine, that worth makes the man.

George William Curtis (1824-1892) American essayist, editor, reformer, orator
“The Good Fight” (1865)
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Added on 11-Jul-16 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“I Have a Dream,” speech, Washington, DC (28 Aug 1963)
Added on 7-Jul-16 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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When things get so balled up that the people of a country got to cut loose from some other country, and go it on their own hook, without asking no permission from nobody, excepting maybe God Almighty, then they ought to let everybody know why they done it, so that everybody can see they are not trying to put nothing over on nobody. All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, me and you is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, everyman has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time whichever way he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else. That any government that don’t give a man them rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of government they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any government don’t do this, then the people have got a right to give it the bum’s rush and put in one that will take care of their interests.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Essay in American,” Baltimore Evening Sun (7 Nov 1921)
Added on 4-Feb-15 | Last updated 4-Feb-15
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This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Report to the American People on Civil Rights (11 Jun 1963)
Added on 24-Dec-14 | Last updated 24-Dec-14
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Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation — not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That is the true genius of America — a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.

Barack Obama (b. 1961) American politician, US President (2009-2017)
Keynote speech, Democratic National Convention (26 Jul 2004)
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Added on 3-Dec-14 | Last updated 3-Dec-14
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I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal — equal in “certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Alton, Illinois (15 Oct 1858)

On the Declaration of Independence.
Added on 19-Nov-14 | Last updated 19-Nov-14
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If our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, its contribution to civilization would be imperishable. The first of these documents is the Declaration of Independence and the other is that which we are here to honor tonight, the Emancipation Proclamation. All tyrants, past, present and future, are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, how vast their power and how malignant their evil.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Address, New York City (12 Sep 1962)
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Added on 12-Nov-14 | Last updated 12-Nov-14
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Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to the other declaration, that for some men to enslave others is a “sacred right of self-government.” These principles cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon; and whoever holds to the one must despise the other.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Peoria (16 Oct 1854)
Added on 5-Nov-14 | Last updated 5-Nov-14
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The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth, that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. It was the first grand assertion of the dignity of the human race. It declared the governed to be the source of power, and in fact denied the authority of any and all gods. Through the ages of slavery — through the weary centuries of the lash and chain, God was the acknowledged ruler of the world. To enthrone man, was to dethrone God.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Individuality” (1873)
Added on 29-Oct-14 | Last updated 29-Oct-14
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One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics. The Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Centennial Oration” (1876)
Added on 22-Oct-14 | Last updated 22-Oct-14
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The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history — the very ring-bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny. Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) American abolitionist, orator, writer
“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech, Rochester, New York (5 July 1852)
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Added on 15-Oct-14 | Last updated 15-Oct-14
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In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
“Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (5 Jul 1926)
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Added on 8-Oct-14 | Last updated 8-Oct-14
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Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
“Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence” (5 Jul 1926)
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Added on 1-Oct-14 | Last updated 1-Oct-14
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The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (3 Jul 1776)

The Colonial Congress approved of the Independence Resolution on 2 July. The final agreement on the Declaration, and its signing, was on 4 July.
Added on 4-Jul-08 | Last updated 10-Jul-16
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I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Abigail Adams (3 Jul 1776)
Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 4-Jul-15
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