Thursday, July 3, 2014

[Not] In Congress, July 4, 2014

HL Mencken famously translated the Declaration of Independence into vulgar American English in 1921 (linky). But that was 1921, and quite a bit of the hokey-pokey Gilded Era slang has become nearly as indecipherable as the 18th century text upon which it was drafted. To periodically refresh the Tree of Mockery, I spill some of my own blood. Here then is the D of I for the euvoluntary exchangeur. Original text below the break, in red.

The unanimous Declaration of the political elites of the thirteen united States of America,

Enough is enough. I have had it with these monkey-fighting political arrangements on this Monday-to-Friday colony. Look people, we're honest folks over here, so just to play it safe, let's roll through the reasons we're sending a breakup letter to the Crown. Doing otherwise is just plain callow, amirite?

This isn't a forum for dissecting religious belief, so when I write "Creator" or "God", it doesn't much matter whether you think of a Michelangelo fresco or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. What's important is the substance: some power above the temporal authority, out of reach of the sovereign has granted everyone these elementary unalienable rights (that means that you can't trade away these rights: you don't "own" them in the same sense you own the trampoline in your backyard): Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT [emphasis added] of happiness. The purpose of a government is to make sure these rights are protected, which should be kind of obvious once you think about it for a moment. Furthermore, the ultimate authority for any Government is the constituency. Government serves the will of the people, not the other way round. Consider for a moment what when Government falls derelict of this divine duty, folks have the right to declare the sovereign's charter void and to draft new terms. Of course, since we're not a disorganized rabble, we respect that long-established Government shouldn't be overturned for flimsy reasons. I mean, think about it: if every petty injustice called for open revolution, there'd be no end to the bloodshed. Every second a Soldier spends in uniform is a second he can't spend at a useful, productive job, making other people's lives more rewarding. At best, revolt mitigates a worse evil. Add up (and discount) all the net evils done by a tyrant or a despot, and compare that to the net evils perpetrated by the next most reasonable alternative. If that difference is greater than the cost of overthrow, then bam: you've got just cause for war. I will now prepare for you a brief list of the reasons why this is now the case. Here are the facts of the matter in no particular order. The King of Great Britain has:

He has vetoed a bunch (a peck? a bundle? what's the collective noun here?) of legislation that would have been otherwise pretty good for the public.
He has prevented urgent local and state legislation from being passed, and even when it manages to get through, it languishes in probation indefinitely.
He offers the following "deal" to large districts of constituents: give up your claim on representation in the Legislature and I'll pass your law.
He convenes the legislature in the middle of nowhere, Florida (as if just regular Florida weren't bad enough). This is done to strong-arm Legislators into compliance.
He just up and dissolves any Legislative body with the temerity to oppose his rule.
He hems, haws, stalls, and stifles any attempt to re-organize previously so dissolved Houses of Representatives. The constituents of these interregnum places face the same sort of anarchy that Bill Murray warned the NYC mayor about in the first Ghostbusters movie: dogs and cats living together, etc.
He closed the borders, and let me tell you, we're hurting so bad for immigrants that some of the people living here have (horrifically) resorted chattel slavery [including the author of the original document!].
He has refused to appoint judges (or at least approve legislation for how judges are selected) where they are desperately needed.
He keeps the judiciary dependent on his whim for their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept a standing Army in peacetime. I... I just can't even with this one. Come on, people.
He has given Soldiers immunity to civilian law. Totally not making this up, you guys.
He compels us to obey foreign statutes. Remember that whole "ultimate authority" thing earlier? A foreign sovereign does not rule with our consent, bro.
For, get this, using our houses to quarter his troops.
For staging mock trials for his Soldiers, pretty much letting them get away with murder.
For not letting us trade with the rest of the world. You know, like we do to our enemies before we bomb the bejeezus out of them, or do to ourselves to "protect domestic industries". Yeah, I'm rolling my eyes too, dude.
For imposing taxes on us without our consent.
For suspending trial by jury.
For hauling us off to stand trial overseas on trumped-up charges.
For disregarding common law and the law merchant in lieu of rule by fiat. Or as Bill Easterly puts it, the Tyranny of Experts. Yikes!
For revoking our local and state Charters, and nullifying our local and state Laws.
For voiding our local Legislatures.
He has waged war against us, his own alleged constituency. Wow.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. Like a Viking. So now you better stop and rebuild all your ruins, for peace and trust can win the day, despite of all your losing.
He hired a bunch of foreign mercenaries and has set them loose among us, so try to imagine that you're an Iraqi with hordes of Blackwater employees running around roughshod. That's what it's like right here. What kind of civilized ruler does this sort of thing? Even Genghis Khan had more temperance.
He has conscripted our own citizens taken captive at sea into his Armies. Again, not even kidding right now. This dude takes our people, forces them to join his Army, then sends them into battle against his own homeland. Not. Even. Kidding.
He has fomented civil unrest, including getting the "merciless Indian Savages" to raid us [SLW ed. I had totally forgotten this particular point of order. I have a sudden urge to wash my hands]

Mind you, this is a short list of grievances. Any time we try to petition for a relief of these (and other) grievances, we get bupkis. Nada. Zilch. Zero. We get the cold shoulder. That's the demeanor of a tyrant, plain and simple. England's King has decided to model his reign on Machiavelli's Prince. It is with great regret I inform you that no one sent him the message that that book was meant to be satire.

So, in the eyes of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Himself, we the assembled dudes of this Congress to hereby claim that these here Colonies are now free and independent states, and we no longer bear allegiance to the British Crown. We're starting our own country and we have that right because the King has decided that he's basically our enemy anyway, so why not just go ahead and make it official? We got each other, and we don't need you no more.

Suck it, George. [omitted]

As promised, the original version:

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 harrass 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 benefits 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 Brittish 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.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?