Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

selections from

The Declaration of Independence

of the United States of America

concerning immigration and minorities

Questions for discussion re The Declaration of Independence

  • In what ways does the Declaration embody "the American Dream?" In what ways does the narrative or pattern of action in the Declaration resemble an immigrant narrative?

  • What racial / ethnic or gender groups are excluded from consideration? That is, when the Declaration says that “all men are created equal,” who is and isn’t indicated by “men?” Given the definition of minorities as non-immigrants, do immigrants = dominant culture?

Selections from

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
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. . . .

How does the opening of the Declaration embody or reflect "the American Dream?" How do the Declaration's narrative and values resemble an immigrant narrative?

[In the passages below, note the positive references to immigration, representation and rights; negative references to taxation and government "offices"; and complicated references to American Indians and African Americans, our nation's preeminent minority groups.]

 . . . He [King George III of England] 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. ["Naturalization" is the making of immigrants to citizens, as in INS = Immigration and Naturalization Service]

 . . . 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. . . . [Indians as victims of immigration and population growth; American Dream as American Nightmare; Indian warfare as terrorism]


Section of Declaration drafted by Jefferson but omitted from final copy by committee:

He has waged cruel war against human nature 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 miserable death in their transportation hither. 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 (determining to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold): and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he had deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also 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.


                                                                                     Franklin, Adams, Jefferson drafting the Declaration