July 4th, 2012 at the National Archives: Dramatic Reading of the Declaration of Independence


[music playing]>>Steve Scully: The words of
liberty as we read aloud the Declaration of Independence. And for that, it is my great
honor to introduce to you a very distinguished group of
individuals who will read the Declaration. First, as you heard from David
Ferriero, the four descendants of our founding fathers, who
are here today, Laura Belman, please stand,
John Belman, Laura Murphy, and Michael Miller.
[applause] Now of course, folks, we cannot
have just the Declaration of Independence,
because we had some grievances against King George, III. And so, for that, we have
the leaders of the Second Continental Congress. Please join me in welcoming
Mr. Thomas Jefferson, Mr. John Adams, and Dr.
Benjamin Franklin. Now these three gentlemen know
the words of the Declaration better than anyone else. Mr. Jefferson, of course,
wrote the first draft. Mr. Adams and Dr. Franklin,
well, they made a couple of changes to it. And finally, to read the names
of the 56 signers, those men who signed this grand declaration,
we are happy to welcome Private Edward “Ned” Hector
of the Free Black Colonial Soldier. He is a respected
patriot and hero. He is a veteran of the Third
Pennsylvania Artillery Company. He was noted, by the way,
for his courage during the Revolutionary War. When he refused to let his
wagon, his team, and his armaments fall into enemy hands. And he was quoted as saying,
“The enemy shall not have my team. I will save the horses
or perish myself.” So we’ll ask all of
these folks to come up. And ladies and gentlemen, the Declaration of Independence. [applause]>>Laura Belman: In Congress, July 4, 1776, the unanimous Declaration
of the 13 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 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.>>Jon Belman: 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. And 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 see most likely to affect their safety and happiness.>>Female Speaker: Prudence indeed will dictate that governments
long established should not be changed for light
and transient causes. And accordingly, all experience
has shown 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 event
as 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.>>John Belman: 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. [applause]>>Thomas Jefferson: He has refused his assent to laws, the most
wholesome and necessary for the public good.>>Benjamin Franklin: He has forbidden his governors to pass laws
of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in
their operation until his assent should be obtained. And when so suspended, he has
utterly neglected to attend to them.>>John Adams: 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.>>Thomas Jefferson: 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.>>Benjamin Franklin: He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the
people.>>John Adams: He has refused for a long time after
such dissolutions to cause others to be elected. Whereby the legislating powers
incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large
for their exercise, the state remaining in the meantime,
exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and
convulsions within.>>Thomas Jefferson: He has endeavored 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 land.>>Benjamin Franklin: He has obstructed the administration of justice by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.>>John Adams: He has made
judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices and
the amount and payment of their salaries.>>Thomas Jefferson: He has erected a multitude of new offices and sent hither swarms
of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.>>Benjamin Franklin: He has kept among us in times of peace
standing armies without the consent of our legislature.>>John Adams: He has affected to render the military independent
of and superior to the civil power.>>Thomas Jefferson: 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 or armed troops among us for protecting
them by 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 and in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government and
enlarging its boundaries, so as to render a debt once, an
example, and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute
rules 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.>>Benjamin Franklin: He has abdicated government here by declaring us out of his
protection and waging war against us.>>John Adams: He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and
destroyed the lives of our people.>>Thomas Jefferson: He
is at this time transporting large armies of foreign
mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation,
and tyranny already begun with circumstances scarcely
paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the
head of a civilized nation.>>Benjamin Franklin: 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.>>John Adams: He has excited
domestic insurrections amongst us and has endeavored to bring
on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian
savages, who’s known rule of warfare is an undistinguished
destruction of our ages, sexes, and conditions. [applause]>>Laura Belman: 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 who’s character is thus
marked by every act, which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be
the ruler of a free people.>>Michael Miller: Nor have we
been wanting in attention to our British 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 immigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their
native justice and magnanimity. And we have conjured them by the
ties of our kindred to disavow these usurpations, which
would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They, too, have been deaf to
the voice of justice, and to consanguinity. We must therefore acquiesce the
necessity which denounces our separation and hold them as we
hold the rest of mankind enemies in war in peace, friends.>>Laura Murphy: 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 that the great state of Britain is and ought to
totally be 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. [applause]>>Michael Miller: 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. [applause]>>Steve Scully: Thank you. Thank you very much to Laura
Belman, to John Belman, to Michael Miller, descendants
of the founding fathers of the Declaration of Independence,
and to Laura Murphy from the Daughters of the American
Revolution to Mr. Jefferson, to Mr. Adams, to Dr.
Franklin, thank you. [applause] Those were the
words heard 236 years ago. Send the message to King George. Private Hector will now read the
names of the colonies and the signers of the Declaration
of Independence. There were 56 signers,
13 original colonies. Now in colonial times, as you
heard from the stage during the course of the morning, there is
the traditional, well, how does it go?>>Audience: Huzzah?>>Steve Scully: Huzzah? So here’s a test for all of you. After Private Hector reads the
names of the signers from each of the states, 13 times,
we want your approval. So let’s just —
let’s test it out. Let’s hear a hearty Huzzah?>>Audience: Huzzah!>>Steve Scully:
What do you think?>>Male Speaker: Didn’t hear it
at all. I tell you what. If you don’t do a better job,
you’re going to go sing, “God Save the Queen.” Let’s try it one more time. On the count of three, one, two,
three.>>Audience: Huzzah!>>Steve Scully: Okay, you can
all stay Americans. [laughter]>>Edward “Ned” Hector: It will be
my pleasure to read the names of these men who were said to be
signing their death warrant. At the end of each, if you feel
compelled to cheer for your particular state,
don’t hold back. First, to the president of the Continental Congress, John Hancock. Huzzah! Georgia, Button Gwinett, Lyman
Hall, and George Walton, Huzzah! North Carolina, Williams Hoope,
Joseph Hewes, and John Penn, Huzzah! South Carolina, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., and Arthur
Middleton, Huzzah! Maryland, Samuel Chase, William Paca,
Thomas Stone, and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Huzzah! Virginia, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin
Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot
Lee, and Carter Braxton, Huzzah! Pennsylvania, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George
Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, and George
Ross, Huzzah! Delaware, Caesar Rodney, George Read, and Thomas
McKean, Huzzah! New York, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, and Lewis Morris, Huzzah! New Jersey, Richard
Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart,
and Abraham Clark, Huzzah! New Hampshire, Josiah Bartlett,
Matthew Thornton, William Whipple, Huzzah! Massachusetts, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, and Elbridge Gerry, Huzzah! Rhode
Island, Steven Hopkins and William Ellery, Huzzah! Connecticut, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington,
William Williams, and Oliver Wolcott, Huzzah! Let’s give them the
ultimate of Huzzahs. Three Huzzahs. Hip, hip, Huzzah! Hip, hip, Huzzah! Hip, hip, Huzzah! Well done. [applause]>>Steve Scully: Private Hector, thank you. Very well done. Another round of applause. That was fabulous. Thank you. [applause] Ladies and gentlemen,
before we conclude the program, a couple of reminders. If you want to view the
Declaration of Independence or the charters of freedom in
the building behind me, the Archives will remain open
until 7:00 this evening. Also, there are a number of
family activities during the course of this afternoon. Some people that we want to
thank as we wrap up our program to the Foundation of the
National Archives, to all of our special readers, to the
distinguished guests here on the stage, to the American
Historical Theater, and our founding fathers one more time, Dr. Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson. [applause] We would
like to thank the Third United States Infantry, the Old Guard,
and John Hancock Financial for their support of this program. And, of course, one final round
of applause to the staff and volunteers of the National
Archives, who have been putting this on for 30 plus
years, thank you. [applause] On behalf of all of
us here today, we wish you a wonderful Fourth of July. Enjoy the festivities around
Washington, D.C. And before we let you go, it is my pleasure to re-introduce the lovely voice of Olivia Vote [phonetic]. [applause] [singing “America
the Beautiful”] [applause]>>Steve Scully: Thank you all. Have a wonderful day.>>Male Speaker: Very nice.>>Male Speaker: Thank you. Thank you very much.>>Male Speaker: Congratulations.>>Male Speaker: Thank you. One — we got to come up and see
you.>>Male Speaker: Great job, thank you.>>Male Speaker: Terrific. [music playing]

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