Fun_People Archive
9 Dec
The Declaration of Independence in American

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed,  9 Dec 98 10:47:17 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: The Declaration of Independence in American

X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649

Among the many on-line copies of the original document is one at
_www.constitution.org_. Actually, of course, the text exists in several
copies that were sent to the states for later signature, so many legends
about its signing in Philadelphia may not be accurate historically.

	The Declaration of Independence
	  in American

	by H. L. Mencken, 1921

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, every man 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.  Of course, that
don't mean having a revolution every day like them South American yellow-
bellies, or every time some jobholder goes to work and does something he
ain't got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc.,
than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons, and any man that
wasn't a anarchist or one of them I.W.W.'s would say the same. But when
things get so bad that a man ain't hardly got no rights at all no more, but
you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and
throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won't carry on so high and
steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of
these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won't stand
it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been
rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to
get away with it by strong-arm work. Here is some of the rough stuff he has

He vetoed bills in the Legislature that everybody was in favor of, and
hardly nobody was against.

He wouldn't allow no law to be passed without it was first put up to him,
and then he stuck it in his pocket and let on he forgot about it, and didn't
pay no attention to no kicks.

When people went to work and gone to him and asked him to put through a law
about this or that, he give them their choice: either they had to shut down
the Legislature and let him pass it all by himself, or they couldn't have
it at all.

He made the Legislature meet at one-horse tank-towns, so that hardly nobody
could get there and most of the leaders would stay home and let him go to
work and do things like he wanted.

He give the Legislature the air, and sent the members home every time they
stood up to him and give him a call-down or bawled him out.

When a Legislature was busted up he wouldn't allow no new one to be elected,
so that there wasn't nobody left to run things, but anybody could walk in
and do whatever they pleased.

He tried to scare people outen moving into these States, and made it so hard
for a wop or one of these here kikes to get his papers that he would rather
stay home and not try it, and then, when he come in, he wouldn't let him
have no land, and so he either went home again or never come.

He monkeyed with the courts, and didn't hire enough judges to do the work,
and so a person had to wait so long for his case to come up that he got sick
of waiting, and went home, and so never got what was coming to him.

He got the judges under his thumb by turning them out when they done
anything he didn't like, or by holding up their salaries, so that they had
to knuckle down or not get no money.

He made a lot of new jobs, and give them to loafers that nobody knowed
nothing about, and the poor people had to pay the bill, whether they could
or not.

Without no war going on, he kept an army loafing around the country, no
matter how much people kicked about it.

He let the army run things to suit theirself and never paid no attention
whatsoever to nobody which didn't wear no uniform.

He let grafters run loose, from God knows where, and give them the say in
everything, and let them put over such things as the following:

Making poor people board and lodge a lot of soldiers they ain't got no use
for, and don't want to see loafing around.

When the soldiers kill a man, framing it up so that they would get off.

Interfering with business.

Making us pay taxes without asking us whether we thought the things we had
to pay taxes for was something that was worth paying taxes for or not.

When a man was arrested and asked for a jury trial, not letting him have no
jury trial.

Chasing men out of the country, without being guilty of nothing, and trying
them somewheres else for what they done here.

In countries that border on us, he put in bum governments, and then tried
to spread them out, so that by and by they would take in this country too,
or make our own government as bum as they was.

He never paid no attention whatever to the Constitution, but he went to work
and repealed laws that everybody was satisfied with and hardly nobody was
against, and tried to fix the government so that he could do whatever he

He busted up the Legislatures and let on he could do all the work better by

Now he washes his hands of us and even goes to work and declares war on us,
so we don't owe him nothing, and whatever authority he ever had he ain't
got no more.

He has burned down towns, shot down people like dogs, and raised hell
against us out on the ocean.

He hired whole regiments of Dutch, etc., to fight us, and told them they
could have anything they wanted if they could take it away from us, and
sicked these Dutch, etc., on us.

He grabbed our own people when he found them in ships on the ocean, and
shoved guns into their hands, and made them fight against us, no matter how
much they didn't want to.

He stirred up the Indians, and give them arms and ammunition, and told them
to go to it, and they have killed men, women and children, and don't care

Every time he has went to work and pulled any of these things, we have went
to work and put in a kick, but every time we have went to work and put in
a kick he has went to work and did it again. When a man keeps on handing
out such rough stuff all the time, all you can say is that he ain't got no
class and ain't fitten to have no authority over people who have got any
rights, and he ought to be kicked out.

When we complained to the English we didn't get no more satisfaction. Almost
every day we give them plenty of warning that the politicians over there
was doing things to us that they didn't have no right to do. We kept on
reminding them who we was, and what we was doing here, and how we come to
come here. We asked them to get us a square deal, and told them that if this
thing kept on we'd have to do something about it and maybe they wouldn't
like it. But the more we talked, the more they didn't pay no attention to
us. Therefore, if they ain't for us they must be agin us, and we are ready
to give them the fight of their lives, or to shake hands when it is over.

Therefore be it resolved, That we, the representatives of the people of the
United States of America, in Congress assembled, hereby declare as follows:
That the United States, which was the United Colonies in former times, is
now a free country, and ought to be; that we have throwed out the English
King and don't want to have nothing to do with him no more, and are not
taking no more English orders no more; and that, being as we are now a free
country, we can do anything that free countries can do, especially declare
war, make peace, sign treaties, go into business, etc. And we swear on the
Bible on this proposition, one and all, and agree to stick to it no matter
what happens, whether we win or we lose, and whether we get away with it or
get the worst of it, no matter whether we lose all our property by it or
even get hung for it.

Author's Note

When this was reprinted in A Mencken Chrestomathy, the author added the
following note:

"From THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE. THIRD EDITION, 1923, pp. 398-402. First
printed, as Essay in American, in the Baltimore Evening Sun, Nov. 7, 1921.
Reprinted in THE AMERICAN LANGUAGE, SECOND EDITION, 1921, pp. 388-92. From
the preface thereof: 'It must be obvious that more than one section of the
original is now quite unintelligible to the average American of the sort
using the Common Speech. What would he make, for example, of such a sentence
as this one: "He has called together 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"? Or
of this: "He has refused for a long time, after such dissolution, to cause
others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of
annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise." Such
Johnsonian periods are quite beyond his comprehension, and no doubt the fact
is at least partly to blame for the neglect upon which the Declaration has
fallen in recent years, When, during the Wilson-Palmer saturnalia of
oppressions [1918-1920], specialists in liberty began protesting that the
Declaration plainly gave the people the right to alter the government under
which they lived and even to abolish it altogether, they encountered the
utmost incredulity. On more than one occasion, in fact, such an exegete was
tarred and feathered by shocked members of the American Legion, even after
the Declaration had been read to them. What ailed them was simply that they
could not understand its Eighteenth Century English.' This jocosity was
denounced as seditious by various patriotic Americans, and in England it
was accepted gravely and deplored sadly as a specimen of current Standard

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