Uafhængighedserklæringen. Maleri fra 1819 af John Trumbull

Uafhængighedserklæringen skabte supermagten USA

I 1776 blev den amerikanske revolution sparket i gang med vedtagelsen af Uafhængighedserklæringen. Det politiske manifest gav folket magten og banede vej for verdens første demokratiske supermagt.

I 1776 blev den amerikanske revolution sparket i gang med vedtagelsen af Uafhængighedserklæringen. Det politiske manifest gav folket magten og banede vej for verdens første demokratiske supermagt.

John Trumbull

Hvad er Uafhængighedserklæringen?

Den 4. juli 1776 godkendte USA’s kongres Uafhængighedserklæringen, der er USA’s grundlæggende dokument.

Med Uafhængighedserklæringen erklærede de 13 britiske kolonier på det nordamerikanske kontinent sig uafhængige af det britiske kongerige og forenede sig under nationen USA som selvstændige stater.

Den amerikanske uafhængighedserklæring: Det originale dokument

I alt 56 mennesker underskrev Uafhængighedserklæringen den 4. juli 1776. Den første underskriver var John Hancock, og den vel nok berømteste var Benjamin Franklin, som var blevet kendt for at opfinde lynaflederen.

© Wikimedia Commons

Før USA blev til Amerikas Forenede Stater, hørte nationens 13 kolonier under den engelske konge.

Utilfredsheden med Det Britiske Imperium på den anden side af Atlanten tog for alvor til i 1763, da det engelske parlament indførte en række nye skatter for at styrke økonomien oven på den dyre syvårskrig mod Frankrig.

I 1764 vedtog det engelske parlament Sugar Act og året efter Stamp Act, som lagde nye afgifter på stort set alle varer, der blev handlet med i kolonierne.

Konflikterne mellem kolonisterne og briterne tog til de efterfølgende år, og i 1775 brød Den Amerikanske Uafhængighedskrig for alvor ud, da britiske soldater og revolutionære kolonister stødte sammen ved Lexington og Concord nær Boston.

Boston Tea Party

Den 16. december 1773 stormede en gruppe kolonister forklædt som indianere tre britiske fragtskibe lastet med højt beskattet te fra Storbritannien. Oprørerne smed 342 tekasser i vandet ved Bostons havn. Aktionen var en protest mod briternes højere skatter og optrappede konflikten mellem kolonisterne og briterne.

© Wikimedia Commons

Med vedtagelsen af Uafhængighedserklæringen brød den amerikanske revolution ud i fuldt flor.

I 1783 trak kolonisterne sig sejrrigt ud af krigen med englænderne. Dermed var den politiske uafhængighed fra Det Britiske Imperium sikret og USA som ny nation født.

Hvem står bag Uafhængighedserklæringen?

56 stod bag manifest

Uafhængighedserklæringen blev underskrevet i Philadelphia af i alt 56 mennesker, der repræsenterede de 13 forskellige kolonier i Amerika.

Den primære forfatter bag Uafhængighedserklæringen var sagføreren Thomas Jefferson, som senere blev landets tredje præsident.

Disse såkaldte founding fathers bestod af en gruppe rige adelsfolk fra samfundets top, som var veluddannede og belæste i den mest moderne europæiske filosofi og naturvidenskab.

Thomas Jefferson – hovedforfatteren bag Uafhængighedserklæringen. Maleri af Mather Brown

Thomas Jefferson var hovedforfatteren til Uafhængighedserklæringen. Han blev senere USA’s tredje præsident fra 1801 til 1809.

© Mather Brown

Medunderskriverne var samlet under det politiske organ Kongressen, der fungerede som styrende råd for de oprørske kolonier.

I 1776 dannede Kongressen en femmandskomité for at skrive Uafhængighedserklæringen. Komitéen bestod af Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston og Thomas Jefferson.

I dag betragter man typisk USA’s første fem præsidenter, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison og James Monroe, som “the founding fathers” på grund af deres aktive rolle i den amerikanske revolution.

Hvad er grundprincipperne i Uafhængighedserklæringen?

Demokratiske principper gav folket magten

Uafhængighedserklæringen byggede på idealer om folkesuverænitet og demokrati. Mere præcist skulle den politiske magt i den enkelte stat ikke kunne udøves uden folkets samtykke.

Disse principper var stort set uhørte i verdenshistorien på det tidspunkt, og Uafhængighedserklæringen betegnes af mange som fødslen af det moderne vestlige demokrati.

Principperne til Uafhængighedserklæringen blev forfattet i 1776 med Thomas Paines revolutionære skrift “Common Sense”, der argumenterede for, at det amerikanske folk var moralsk og politisk forpligtet til at kæmpe imod Storbritannien for at opnå uafhængighed.

Paines revolutionære tanker om et nyt, frit Amerika blev et pejlemærke for Thomas Jefferson, da han året efter forfattede principperne bag Uafhængighedserklæringen.

Uafhængighedserklæringen blev indledt med de nu verdensberømte ord: “Alle mennesker er skabt lige; at de af deres skaber er blevet udstyret med visse umistelige rettigheder; iblandt dem er liv, frihed og stræben efter lykke”.

Dernæst fulgte erklæringen om, at “regeringen er indstiftet iblandt dem for at beskytte disse rettigheder, og at dens retmæssige magt stammer fra de regeredes samtykke; at når en regering bliver skadelig for disse formål, da er det folkets ret at ændre eller afskaffe den og at indstifte en ny regering”.

Hvor stærkt står Uafhængighedserklæringen i dag?

Idealer under pres

Den politiske virkelighed i USA har alle dage haft svært ved at leve op til idealerne fra Uafhængighedserklæringen. Da Thomas Jefferson skrev de flotte ord om frihed for alle mennesker, ejede han selv slaver.

I nationens første små 200 år byggede USA’s politik på en accept af at undertrykke sorte vælgeres indflydelse. Først med borgerrettighedslovene i 1964-65 blev USA omsider fuldt ud demokratisk.

Mange politiske tænkere mener, at de demokratiske grundprincipper fra Uafhængighedserklæringen er under angreb i disse år, særligt efter Donald Trumps turbulente præsidentperiode fra 2016 til 2020.

Beskyldninger om valgfusk, trusler om rigsretssager og ikke mindst stormen på Kongressen i januar 2021 har kastet USA ud i en demokratisk krise, der ville få Thomas Jefferson og co. til at vende sig i deres grav.

Som politologerne Steven Levitsky og Daniel Ziblatt skriver i deres bog, “How Democracies Die”, fra 2018: “Et demokrati dør ikke i hænderne på generaler, men af valgte ledere, som undergraver den selvsamme proces, der fik dem til magten”.

Uafhængighedserklæringen på originalsproget

Uafhængighedserklæringen i sin fulde længde og på originalsproget

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 harrass 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 offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring 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 endeavoured 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.