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The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution

(Project Gutenberg)

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,340 ratings  ·  186 reviews
In time for the upcoming election season, Penguin presents a series of six portable, accessible, and—above all—essential reads from American political history, selected by leading scholars. Series editor Richard Beeman, author of The Penguin Guide to the U.S. Constitution, draws together the great texts of American civic life, including the founding documents, pivotal hist ...more
Paperback, 174 pages
Published August 28th 2012 by Penguin Books (first published July 1776)
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Bill Kerwin
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

My first thoughts, on the morning of July 4, 2017.

Put aside slavery and hypocrisy—if you can—for a moment, and read the first paragraph (71 words, 405 characters):
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
Charles  van Buren
A good free edition

This founding document of an independent United States is just that and was not considered to be a governing document equivalent to the constitution. Some politicians and scholars have since tried to elevate it to that status. However it remains primarily a list of grievances against Great Britain and a list of justifications for declaring independence.

The declaration does also contain some general statements about human rights including the famous, "We hold these truths to be
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best non-book/theater piece/dialog/story/dialogue work ever written.

Astounding language and content it's the essence of the Revolutionary spirit as well as most of Jefferson's thoughts.

Isn't it awesome this is listed on goodreads?
Aug 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Congress
Shelves: 2008
I read this document a couple times a year. Whenever I do, I wonder if the list of government abuses would be longer today.

How many millions of dollars per minute of interest does the American taxpayer get stuck with thanks to Congress?

How many months of forced labor does the average citizen work in order to pay their taxes? And how much do we pay with the hidden tax of inflation from the Federal Reserves' fiat money?

How many American citizens get killed in undeclared wars, where national securi
Scott Flicker
Jul 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read this many times but wanted to read it again with all the headlines over the confederate flag and the cause(s) of the civil war. What did Jefferson mean by "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." I think Americans have been arguing about this for over 200 years. ...more
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2 Stars
I rated this book 2 stars simply because this book was one of those books that are just okay to read. I don´t really read history kind of because to me some are good and some are not so much. The reason I read this book is because I had to read it for one of my classes that I am taking. At first I thought for sure I was not going to like it because of the way it sounded. As I was reading this book I changed my mind about it. I was better than what I thought. I would not read this book aga
This organic document is the "arc and covenant" to the Constitution. ...more
Sep 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the poetry that preludes the prose of the Constitution of the United States. A revolutionary document. How a group of men who couldn't agree on whether to keep the windows open or shut could come to agree on declaring independence is nothing short of a miracle. Jefferson had a genius in the power of writing persuasively. And the truths recorded therein are self-evident. ...more
نیلوفر رحمانیان
As it is kinda stupid, it is quite funny that i think even today such a text with a good reading may cause a revolution
Clay Davis
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The perfect read for Independence Day.
Miles Smith
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What to say about the Declaration? So much actually. We take too much of Jefferson’s rhetoric as true, when he was actually trying to justify a decision not even a majority of colonists supported. The most galling thing about the document are the calumnies concerning George III, who was actually a throughout decent man and the best monarch between William III and Victoria. We need to treat the Declaration cautiously. And we never should use it as a lens to interpret the for more important Consti ...more
Huda Aweys
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Declaration contains the reasons and rationales that led the states to their independence from the British Empire, as well as the principles of liberalism that led them to their rise and unity. The signing of this Declaration has included a number of brilliant names in the fields of literature and politics in America
May 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I find it hard to write a review on this selection of Jefferson's works not for any fault of the editor, and certainly not the introduction by Michael Hardt which I thought an excellent standalone essay in and of itself. It is that Jefferson, to me at least, is a figure who wrote fantastic things, truly revolutionary things, but also wrote horrible things, and did horrible things as well. Jefferson that believer in natural human rights, equality, and brotherhood, owned slaves, laid the foundatio ...more
Christy Peterson
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: freedom
It has been said by some that there were no “long chain of abuses” for the early founders to protest. I wonder if these people have been so desensitized by modern abuses that what the colonists faced was nothing in comparison. The 27 abuses listed in the Declaration of Independence are indeed abuses worth declaring separation over.

It is plain that Thomas Jefferson liked the writings of John Locke, as do I. I have read that several classic authors have disagreed with Locke on different points. I
Apr 16, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: read in English 334 - American Literature Anthology
The Declaration of Independence taken from Jefferson's autobiography was quite enlightening because I could see the many alterations that Congress made as well as the dedication Jefferson had to his country and countrymen: "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." I believe Jefferson had wisdom beyond his years (especially in his expressions of slavery) that was shot down because Congress was eager to unite the colonies. ...more
Daniel Nelms
4 July, 2018
Cannot recommend more Fink’s edition for a read aloud to children. The illustrations act as interpretation of some of the difficult language so they can more easily understand what is being said. Each year we read it aloud to them on July 4th. Happy Independence Day.

4 July, 2021 Update:
Another year, another read aloud of Fink's illustrated edition. Happy 4th. I also learned what consanguinity means. The historical timeline of events at the end of the book concerning the rebellion is
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa-history
Since it is the 4th of July I thought that I would read this and Common Sense since I really have never sat down and read the whole thing. I thought these gentlemen were extremely remarkable. If the war would have been lost they all would have been hung but since we won they are looked at as founding fathers. And amazing read in itself it is a document that is still changing lives.
Sidharth Vardhan
Since its fourth of July.
Feb 02, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If moral truths are taken as self-evident, there likely will follow sanctimonious racism and imperialism.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
You may wonder why I’m reading this. How can you not know the D of I and the Constitution? you might ask. Sure, I took AP Government like any good high schooler and I’m bound to have studied these documents then, but that was nearly 20 years ago and I’ll be damned if I remember anything other than who my teacher was and who I used to pass notes to. As Richard Beeman notes in his introduction to this first book in the lovely Penguin Civics Classics series, “There is…[a] large body of evidence sug ...more
Cassara Nguyen
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this was a wonderful book to read about people Declaring Independence by writing a document. The thirteen countries that Britain owned were furious that they had to pay taxes. They wanted to be treated fairly so, they wrote up a document called the Declaration of Independence to declare that Britain can not rule the thirteen countries anymore. In the book there is this famous quote that people in the thirteen colonies really want. The quote is "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ...more
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa-gone-cray
How does one rate a constitution? This one is pretty good as far as constitutions but it's repulsive how much leeway and compromise was shown to slavery supporters. Loopholes everywhere that allowed for slavery and made this country's entire founding documents complicit. We have been complicit ever since. Good to know and not really new information, but glaring and upsetting to see all the missed opportunities. ...more
Benjamin Marcher
Jul 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It might be the most Beautiful thing ever penned.
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, history
It has been a habit of mine since high school to read the Declaration of Independence every year on the 4th of July. Normally I reflect on the pride I feel to be an American, the pride I feel in the people who fought in the revolution and who overcame such insurmountable odds. I think about our founding fathers and what it must have been like to sign their names to a document that they could have been put to death for treason for signing. I think about Ben Franklin who famously said when getting ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good way for children (and adults!) to introduce themselves to the Declaration of Independence. Really liked the timeline at the end.
When I look to this document, I see a failed promise. A dream and prophecy that never was. A chance that only dropped off in time. It epitomizes the basic ideal of liberty and what America might've been. And it is a reasonable proposition, and I think if held as such, it would be perhaps the nation they had dreamed. But now look at America, or more properly - what's left of it. It went from what could've been the perfect nation, to one that is better dissolved than continued. Unless one is blind ...more
We read this again yesterday as we finished reading the last Article of the Constitution, to remind us why we have an independent country and a Constitution in the first place. I liked it even more this second time. Admittedly, the illustrations are not my style at all. However, I greatly appreciate how each picture gives a simple explanation of/expounds upon the portion of text it represents, thereby clarifying the meaning of the sometimes lofty language of our forebears. To see and read aloud ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hardt tries really hard to make Jefferson's political theory into a radical phenomena, and it is a neat idea, but in the end I can't buy it. Jefferson's idea of "natural law" and the will of the "people" ultimately lends itself far more easily, in my mind, to neoliberal arguments than those which Hardt is interested in making. ...more
Apr 16, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Yeah yeah, freedom is all well and good on paper. But every time I go to the grocery store and look down the aisles at 15 different brands and consistencies of peanut butter, I wish someone would just run my life for me.

Thanks a lot Tom.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book. I read it with my children. The Declaration of Independence came alive for them with the fun illustrations. They are even using big words like "usurp" now. However, I don't think making them do their chores makes me a usurper. Nice try. ...more
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The term Founding Fathers of the United States of America refers broadly to the individuals of the Thirteen British Colonies in North America who led the American Revolution against the authority of the British Crown and established the United States of America. It is also used more narrowly, referring specifically to those who either signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776 or who were dele ...more

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“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 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.”
“not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take.” 29 likes
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