THEY WROTE THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE WITH A QUILL

Written with a quill pen, the founding documents of the United States. On parchment. 


Before rolling writers and ballpoints — or even fountain pens — there were quill pens. Goose feathers, though I imagine those without available geese worked with any feather which might pick up ink and scratch along the paper.

Writers with quills had to be sincere. There are a lot of words in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution and both were written on parchment with quills. To carefully write all those words … and make corrections when a correction meant starting over from the beginning … required a level of dedication that makes my wrists hurt in sympathy.

A quill pen. A split feather from a goose. With hand-made ink. And from this primitive beginning, we built a country. How many kids in school today have read either the Declaration or the Constitution? How many adults read it and how many remember what it said? How many still think the first amendment sounds like socialism?

Before you fight over its contents, find out what the contents are. Read the amendments and figure out how things have changed — and how maybe they still need to change even more. Curiosity can go a long way to figuring out the ways of the world. It’s not hard to find a copy. Here’s the Declaration of Independence.

It isn’t written with a quill. It’s printed so everyone can read it.

It isn’t difficult to get a basic education in the fundamentals of this nation’s backbone. It doesn’t require a high IQ or a special degree in education … just curiosity and an interest in learning. Even if you’ve read it dozens of times, one more reading won’t ruin your life, will it?

Take a little mental trip to the National Archives where we keep copies of all the important documents involved in the founding and maintenance of this nation. Discover what the fuss is all about. It won’t cost you a penny and a lot of things will make more sense if you read where they began.


Transcript of Declaration of Independence (1776)

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

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 benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring 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 endeavored 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.


The NATIONAL ARCHIVES also has the entire Constitution available for your reading pleasure, including the amendments and a great many other documents that might be of interest. It’s too long to include here. But at least you won’t need to write the whole 7,000 words on parchment with a quill pen. That’s a good start!



Categories: American history, History, Marilyn Armstrong

Tags: , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. Great post, Marilyn, and very interesting. Shame we don’t still write with quills really, it did look very stylish. Happy Independence Day. 🙂

    Like

  2. Thanks for a fantastic Fourth of July post, Marilyn! Just what we needed…

    Like

    • I’m not sure we are going to be able to see most of this stuff. It’s on what USED to be NBC but is now a local station and we don’t have it on our package. I’ll have to see if it has a streaming app but somehow, I doubt it.

      Like

  3. Happy Independence Day Marilyn and Garry.
    Leslie

    Like

  4. Not just with a quill pen, but with that wonderfully scripted handwriting. My writing is barely legible with a modern ballpoint pen. It must have taken John Hancock twenty minutes to add all of that stylization to his signature. And then to have an insurance company just steal it out from under him like that…

    Like

    • I can’t read my OWN handwriting these days. I don’t think anyone could copy it because I’m amazed that I can still write. John Hancock, probably the wealthiest of our “founders.” They were an interesting bunch of guys. I’ve read a lot about them over the years, but surprisingly little about Mr. Hancock, other than that he was probably the richest guy in the colonies and for him, more than anyone else, it was ALL about the money. He wasn’t a slaver, but slaves were his major piece of trade. That triangle thing? Rum and slaves and sailing ships. And a hell of a great handwriting.

      Like

  5. “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.”

    “ALL men”.., that is the essential statement in this document that seems to have been forgotten. It says “all men” it doesn’t say except black men, hispanic men, Asians or native Americans etc. And it doesn’t say white men only, The one fault is that it doesn’t mention women. It may have assumed that “men” included men and women.., but maybe they didn’t realize that to populate the land with men, you can’t do it without women. You’re right this document needs to be re-read and taught in the schools, but I’m sure Frump, who so easily ignores our constitution, would try to outlaw The Declaration of Independence, or strike it from the records somehow regarding it as “FAKE, Never happened!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, we know. Yet the intent was there. Not everyone agreed with slavery. John Adams and Abigail refused to live in the White House because it was built by slaves. They were seriously against it as were most of the northern group. They made a devil’s bargain to get the constitution passed and they KNEW it would be decided, in the end, by war. Even when they wrote it, they knew blood would flow. All of this is well covered in the diaries of the men who wrote it. They had a choice: Form a country or not. The made a nation, but they are still trying to clean up the mess they made.

      Liked by 1 person

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