Revisiting our independence

Published 5:37 pm Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This past week, we celebrated the Declaration of Independence’s 240th anniversary. In school, I was taught that it was written by Thomas Jefferson.

Not understanding how legislation is created by original draft then followed by various rewrites to gain the approval of a majority of supporters, I assumed Jefferson’s original words were what we currently celebrate. However, with the research of Larry Marshall from Nottoway County, I understand that there were some substantial changes made to that original draft.

Normally, we focus on the first part of the Declaration with less focus on the second part listing the complaints against King George. Due to the work of Marshall, I want to first focus on one complaint that was not included in the final draft.

Jefferson wrote:

“He (King George III) has waged cruel war against humanity itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty, in the persons of a distant people who never offended him; captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur a miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where men should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit, or to restrain, this execrable commerce. And in this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting these very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”

Jefferson was proclaiming the sentiments of Virginians. Two years prior, in 1774, the Virginia Colonial Convention resolved to end the importation of slaves.

Returning to the first parts of the Declaration, one might question if 2016 is not a good year to revisit the issue in these particular words.

“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 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.”

“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.”

Our founding fathers had no intention to create a government that was not of the people a peaceful change in government.

Frank Ruff, a Republican, represents Lunenburg County in the Virginia Senate. His email address is