Uavhengighetserklæringen. Maleri fra 1819 av John Trumbull

Uavhengighetserklæringen skapte supermakten USA

I 1776 ble den amerikanske revolusjonen sparket i gang med at uavhengighetserklæringen ble vedtatt. Det politiske manifestet ga folket makten og banet vei for verdens første demokratiske supermakt.

I 1776 ble den amerikanske revolusjonen sparket i gang med at uavhengighetserklæringen ble vedtatt. Det politiske manifestet ga folket makten og banet vei for verdens første demokratiske supermakt.

John Trumbull

Hva er uavhengighetserklæringen?

Den 4. juli 1776 godkjente USAs kongress uavhengighetserklæringen, som er USAs grunnleggende dokument.

Med uavhengighetserklæringen erklærte de 13 britiske koloniene på det nordamerikanske kontinentet uavhengighet fra Storbritannia og forente seg under nasjonen USA som selvstendige stater.

Den amerikanske uavhengighetserklæringen: Det originale dokumentet

I alt 56 mennesker underskrev uavhengighetserklæringen den 4. juli 1776. Den første underskriveren var John Hancock, og den vel mest berømte var Benjamin Franklin, som var blitt kjent for å finne opp lynavlederen.

© Wikimedia Commons

Før USA ble Amerikas forente stater, tilhørte nasjonens 13 kolonier den engelske kongen.

Misnøyen med det britiske imperiet på den andre siden av Atlanteren tiltok for alvor i 1763, da det engelske parlamentet innførte en rekke nye skatter for å styrke økonomien etter den kostbare syv år lange krigen mot Frankrike.

I 1764 vedtok det engelske parlamentet Sugar Act og året etter Stamp Act, som innførte nye skatter på praktisk talt alle varer som det ble handlet med i koloniene.

Konfliktene mellom kolonistene og britene eskalerte i de påfølgende årene, og i 1775 brøt den amerikanske uavhengighetskrigen ut for alvor da britiske soldater og revolusjonære kolonister støtte sammen ved Lexington og Concord nær Boston.

Boston Tea Party

Den 16. desember 1773 stormet en gruppe kolonister forkledd som indianere tre britiske frakteskip lastet med høyt beskattet te fra Storbritannia. Opprørerne kastet 342 tekasser i vannet ved havnen i Boston. Aksjonen var en protest mot britenes høyere skatter og trappet opp konflikten mellom kolonistene og britene.

© Wikimedia Commons

Med vedtakelsen av uavhengighetserklæringen brøt den amerikanske revolusjonen ut i full blomst.

I 1783 gikk kolonistene seirende ut av krigen med engelskmennene. Dermed var den politiske uavhengigheten fra det britiske imperiet sikret og USA som en ny nasjon født.

Hvem står bak uavhengighetserklæringen?

56 sto bak manifest

Uavhengighetserklæringen ble underskrevet i Philadelphia av totalt 56 personer som representerte de 13 forskjellige koloniene i Amerika.

Den primære forfatteren bak uavhengighetserklæringen var sakføreren Thomas Jefferson, som senere ble landets tredje president.

Disse såkalte founding fathers besto av en gruppe rike adelsmenn fra toppen av samfunnet, som var godt utdannet og belest i den mest moderne europeiske filosofien og naturvitenskapen.

Thomas Jefferson – hovedforfatteren bak uavhengighetserklæringen. Maleri av Mather Brown.

Thomas Jefferson var hovedforfatteren til uavhengighetserklæringen. Han ble senere USAs tredje president fra 1801 til 1809.

© Mather Brown

Medunderskriverne var samlet under det politiske organet Kongressen, som fungerte som styrende råd for de opprørske koloniene.

I 1776 dannet Kongressen en femmannskomité for å skrive uavhengighetserklæringen. Komiteen besto av Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston og Thomas Jefferson.

I dag regnes de første fem presidentene i USA, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison og James Monroe, vanligvis som «the founding fathers» på grunn av deres aktive rolle i den amerikanske revolusjonen.

Hva er grunnprinsippene i uavhengighetserklæringen?

Demokratiske prinsipper ga folket makten

Uavhengighetserklæringen var basert på idealer om folkesuverenitet og demokrati. Mer presist skulle den politiske makten i den enkelte stat ikke kunne utøves uten folkets samtykke.

Disse prinsippene var stort sett uhørt i verdenshistorien på den tiden, og uavhengighetserklæringen beskrives av mange som det moderne vestlige demokratiets fødsel.

Prinsippene for uavhengighetserklæringen ble forfattet i 1776 med Thomas Paines revolusjonære skrift, «Common Sense», som argumenterte for at det amerikanske folket var moralsk og politisk forpliktet til å kjempe mot Storbritannia for å oppnå uavhengighet.

Paines revolusjonerende ideer om et nytt, fritt Amerika ble et utgangspunkt for Thomas Jefferson da han året etter skrev prinsippene bak uavhengighetserklæringen.

Uavhengighetserklæringen ble innledet med de nå verdenskjente ordene: «Alle mennesker er skapt like; at de alle har fått visse umistelige rettigheter av sin skaper, og at retten til liv, frihet og streben etter lykke er blant disse.»

Deretter fulgte erklæringen om at «regjeringen er innstiftet blant dem for å beskytte disse rettighetene, og at dens rettmessige makt stammer fra samtykke fra dem de styrer over; at når en regjering blir skadelig for disse formålene, er det folkets rett å endre eller avskaffe den og innstifte en ny regjering».

Hvor sterkt står uavhengighetserklæringen i dag?

Idealer under press

Den politiske virkeligheten i USA har alltid hatt vanskelig for å leve opp til idealene i uavhengighetserklæringen. Da Thomas Jefferson skrev de vakre ordene om frihet for alle mennesker, eide han selv slaver.

I nasjonens første 200 år var amerikansk politikk basert på en aksept for å undertrykke svarte velgeres innflytelse. Først med Civil Rights Acts fra 1964–65 ble USA endelig fullstendig demokratisk.

Mange politiske tenkere mener at de demokratiske grunnprinsippene fra uavhengighetserklæringen er under angrep for tiden, spesielt etter Donald Trumps turbulente presidentperiode fra 2016 til 2020.

Beskyldninger om valgfusk, trusler om riksrettssaker og ikke minst stormingen av Kongressen i januar 2021 har kastet USA inn i en demokratisk krise som ville fått Thomas Jefferson og co. til å snu seg i graven.

Som statsviterne Steven Levitsky og Daniel Ziblatt skriver i sin bok How Democracies Die fra 2018: «Et demokrati dør ikke i hendene på generaler, men av valgte ledere som undergraver den samme prosessen som brakte dem til makten.»

Uavhengighetserklæringen på originalspråket

Uavhengighetserklæringen i sin helhet og på originalspråket

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.