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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.
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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 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 abusesand 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 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.
The Collapse of the Soviet Union
After his inauguration in January 1989, George H.W. Bush did not automatically follow the policy of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan, in dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. Instead, he ordered a strategic policy re-evaluation in order to establish his own plan and methods for dealing with the Soviet Union and arms control.
Boris Yeltsin makes a speech from atop a tank in front of the Russian parliament building in Moscow, U.S.S.R., Monday, Aug. 19, 1991. (AP Photo)
Conditions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, however, changed rapidly. Gorbachev’s decision to loosen the Soviet yoke on the countries of Eastern Europe created an independent, democratic momentum that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and then the overthrow of Communist rule throughout Eastern Europe. While Bush supported these independence movements, U.S. policy was reactive. Bush chose to let events unfold organically, careful not to do anything to worsen Gorbachev’s position.
With the policy review complete, and taking into account unfolding events in Europe, Bush met with Gorbachev at Malta in early December 1989. They laid the groundwork for finalizing START negotiations, completing the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, and they discussed the rapid changes in Eastern Europe. Bush encouraged Gorbachev’s reform efforts, hoping that the Soviet leader would succeed in shifting the USSR toward a democratic system and a market oriented economy.
Gorbachev’s decision to allow elections with a multi-party system and create a presidency for the Soviet Union began a slow process of democratization that eventually destabilized Communist control and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Following the May 1990 elections, Gorbachev faced conflicting internal political pressures: Boris Yeltsin and the pluralist movement advocated democratization and rapid economic reforms while the hard-line Communist elite wanted to thwart Gorbachev’s reform agenda.
Facing a growing schism between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, the Bush administration opted to work primarily with Gorbachev because they viewed him as the more reliable partner and because he made numerous concessions that promoted U.S. interests. Plans proceeded to sign the START agreement. With the withdrawal of Red Army troops from East Germany, Gorbachev agreed to German reunification and acquiesced when a newly reunited Germany joined NATO. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the United States and the Soviet leadership worked together diplomatically to repel this attack.
Yet for all of those positive steps on the international stage, Gorbachev’s domestic problems continued to mount. Additional challenges to Moscow’s control placed pressure on Gorbachev and the Communist party to retain power in order to keep the Soviet Union intact. After the demise of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and the Caucasus demanded independence from Moscow. In January 1991, violence erupted in Lithuania and Latvia. Soviet tanks intervened to halt the democratic uprisings, a move that Bush resolutely condemned.
By 1991, the Bush administration reconsidered policy options in light of the growing level of turmoil within the Soviet Union. Three basic options presented themselves. The administration could continue to support Gorbachev in hopes of preventing Soviet disintegration. Alternately, the United States could shift support to Yeltsin and the leaders of the Republics and provide support for a controlled restructuring or possible breakup of the Soviet Union. The final option consisted of lending conditional support to Gorbachev, leveraging aid and assistance in return for more rapid and radical political and economic reforms.
Unsure about how much political capital Gorbachev retained, Bush combined elements of the second and third options. The Soviet nuclear arsenal was vast, as were Soviet conventional forces, and further weakening of Gorbachev could derail further arms control negotiations. To balance U.S. interests in relation to events in the Soviet Union, and in order to demonstrate support for Gorbachev, Bush signed the START treaty at the Moscow Summit in July 1991. Bush administration officials also, however, increased contact with Yeltsin.
The unsuccessful August 1991 coup against Gorbachev sealed the fate of the Soviet Union. Planned by hard-line Communists, the coup diminished Gorbachev’s power and propelled Yeltsin and the democratic forces to the forefront of Soviet and Russian politics. Bush publicly condemned the coup as “extra-constitutional,” but Gorbachev’s weakened position became obvious to all. He resigned his leadership as head of the Communist party shortly thereafter—separating the power of the party from that of the presidency of the Soviet Union. The Central Committee was dissolved and Yeltsin banned party activities. A few days after the coup, Ukraine and Belarus declared their independence from the Soviet Union. The Baltic States, which had earlier declared their independence, sought international recognition.
Amidst quick, dramatic changes across the landscape of the Soviet Union, Bush administration officials prioritized the prevention of nuclear catastrophe, the curbing of ethnic violence, and the stable transition to new political orders. On September 4, 1991, Secretary of State James Baker articulated five basic principles that would guide U.S. policy toward the emerging republics: self-determination consistent with democratic principles, recognition of existing borders, support for democracy and rule of law, preservation of human rights and rights of national minorities, and respect for international law and obligations. The basic message was clear—if the new republics could follow these principles, they could expect cooperation and assistance from the United States. Baker met with Gorbachev and Yeltsin in an attempt to shore up the economic situation and develop some formula for economic cooperation between the republics and Russia, as well as to determine ways to allow political reforms to occur in a regulated and peaceful manner. In early December, Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus met in Brest to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), effectively declaring the demise of the Soviet Union.
On December 25, 1991, the Soviet hammer and sickle flag lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, thereafter replaced by the Russian tricolor. Earlier in the day, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state. People all over the world watched in amazement at this relatively peaceful transition from former Communist monolith into multiple separate nations.
With the dissolution of Soviet Union, the main goal of the Bush administration was economic and political stability and security for Russia, the Baltics, and the states of the former Soviet Union. Bush recognized all 12 independent republics and established diplomatic relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In February 1992, Baker visited the remaining republics and diplomatic relations were established with Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Civil war in Georgia prevented its recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States until May 1992. Yeltsin met with Bush at Camp David in February 1992, followed by a formal state visit to Washington in June. Leaders from Kazakhstan and Ukraine visited Washington in May 1992.
During his visits to Washington, politics, economic reforms, and security issues dominated the conversations between Yeltsin and Bush. Of paramount concern was securing the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union and making certain nuclear weapons did not fall into the wrong hands. Baker made it clear that funding was available from the United States to secure nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. The Nunn-Lugar Act established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in November 1991 to fund the dismantling of weapons in the former Soviet Union, in accordance with the START and INF Treaties and other agreements. Bush and Baker also worked with Yeltsin and international organizations like the World Bank and IMF to provide financial assistance and hopefully prevent a humanitarian crisis in Russia.
It might sound like something out of “Sesame Street” but the XYZ Affair was, in fact, a diplomatic incident between France and America in the late 18th century that led to an undeclared war at sea.
In 1793, France went to war with Great Britain while America remained neutral. Late the following year, the United States and Britain signed the Jay Treaty, which resolved several longstanding issues between those two nations. The French were infuriated by Jay’s Treaty, believing it violated earlier treaties between the United States and France; as a result, they went on to seize a substantial number of American merchant ships. When President George Washington sent Charles Cotesworth Pinckney as the U.S. minister to France in 1796, the government there refused to receive him. After John Adams became president in March 1797, he dispatched a three-member delegation to Paris later that same year in an effort to restore peace between the two countries. Once the diplomats—Pinckney along with John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry—arrived overseas they tried to meet with France’s foreign minister, Charles de Talleyrand. Instead, he put them off and eventually had three agents inform the U.S. commissioners that in order to see him they first would have to pay him a hefty bribe and provide France with a large loan, among other conditions. Pinckney’s supposed response was: “No! No! Not a sixpence!”
When word of the French demands reached the United States, it caused an uproar and prompted calls for war. After some members of Congress asked to see the diplomats’ reports regarding what had transpired in France, Adams handed them over with the names of the French agents replaced with the letters X, Y and Z; thus the name XYZ Affair. Congress subsequently authorized various defense measures, including the creation of the Department of the Navy and the construction of warships. Then, in July 1798, it authorized American ships to attack French vessels, launching an undeclared naval war that came to be referred to as the Quasi-War. The hostilities were settled with the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine, which was ratified in 1801.