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建国史话 (12):美国独立战争独立宣言

From VOA Learning English, this is THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in Special English. I'm Steve Ember.

This week in our series, we continue the story of the American Revolution.

The year was seventeen seventy-five. Colonists in Massachusetts had fought battles with British troops in the towns of Lexington and Concord. War had not been declared. But citizen soldiers in each of the thirteen American colonies were ready to fight.

Who was going to organize the colonists into an army?

This was the first question that faced the Second Continental Congress when delegates met in May in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The delegates decided that the man for the job was George Washington. He had experience fighting in the French and Indian War. He seemed to know more than any other colonist about being a military commander.

The delegates elected him as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. He accepted the position, but he said he would not take any money for leading the new army.
 

An 18th century painting called "Congress Voting the Declaration of Independence"

George Washington left Philadelphia for Massachusetts, where he took command on July third, seventeen seventy-five. Jayne Gordon at the Massachusetts Historical Society says Washington looked very impressive.

"He was tall, he was very elegant, very well put together. It's very interesting because when he came to take command of the Continental Army, many of the New England soldiers were not quite sure what to make of this man who was, after all, from Virginia, not from New England. Washington won them over. His conduct, his grace, I think his discipline was extremely important."

Back in Philadelphia, the delegates to the Second Continental Congress made one more attempt to prevent war with Great Britain. They sent another message to King George. They asked him to consider their problems and try to find a solution.

The king would not even read the message.

You might wonder: Why would the delegates try to prevent war if the people were ready to fight?

The answer is that most of the members of the Congress -- and most of the colonists -- were not yet ready to break away from England. They continued to believe they could have greater self-government and still be part of the British Empire.

Jayne Gordon at the Massachusetts Historical Society says many colonists felt conflicted and confused about their identity.

"They're Englishmen, they're still Englishmen, but they're not Englishmen. All along what they've wanted is just to have the rights of Englishmen. And it doesn't seem to be possible under an old system."

A major battle took place in June of seventeen seventy-five, just two days after the delegates in Philadelphia chose George Washington as commander. It was the first major battle of the American Revolution. It was called the Battle of Bunker Hill, although it really involved two hills: Bunker and Breed's. Both are just across the Charles River from the city of Boston.

Massachusetts soldiers dug positions on Breed's Hill. The British started to attack from across the river. The Americans had very little gunpowder. They were forced to wait until the British had crossed the river and were almost on top of them before they fired their guns. Their commander reportedly told them not to fire on the British until they saw the whites of their eyes.

The British climbed the hill. The Americans fired. A second group of British soldiers climbed the hill. The Americans fired again. The third time, the British reached the top, but the Americans were gone. They had left because they had no more gunpowder.

Peter Drummey, a librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society, reads part of a letter that a young soldier wrote to his mother.

"’I was in the fort when the enemy came in, jumped over the wall, and ran half a mile, where balls’ — that is, musket balls — ‘flew like hail stones, and cannon roared like thunder.’"

The British captured Breed's Hill. But Peter Drummey says the Americans still considered the battle a kind of victory.

"The paradox is, even though the American forces are defeated and forced off the hill, nevertheless the British casualties are so high it is at least a moral victory."

Even the young American soldier who fled the battle wrote to his mother that he would continue fighting for American independence.

"And in fact that's probably what the British learned from this battle. That they could capture this hill at great cost, but the New England countryside is full of hills and they couldn't capture them all back."

That battle also reduced whatever hope was left for a negotiated settlement. King George declared the colonies to be in open rebellion.

The American colonists fought several battles against British troops in seventeen seventy-five. Yet the colonies were still not ready to declare war. Then, the following year, the British decided to use Hessian soldiers to fight against the colonists. Hessians were mostly German mercenaries who fought for anyone who paid them. The colonists feared these soldiers and hated the British for using them.

In January of seventeen seventy-six, Thomas Paine published a document that strongly influenced the colonists. He named the pamphlet "Common Sense." It attacked King George, as well as the idea of a monarchy — a government led by a king or queen. The pamphlet called for independence.

About one hundred fifty thousand copies of "Common Sense" were sold in the colonies. Everyone talked about it. As a result, the Second Continental Congress began to act. It opened American ports to foreign shipping. It urged colonists to establish state governments and to write constitutions.

On June seventh, seventeen seventy-six, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution for independence.

The resolution was not approved immediately. Declaring independence was an extremely serious step. Signing such a document would make the delegates traitors to Britain. They would be killed if captured by the British.

The delegates wanted the world to understand what they were doing, and why. So they appointed a committee to write a document giving the reasons for their actions.

One member of this committee was Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. He had already written a report criticizing the monarchy. So the other committee members asked him to write the new document. They said he was the best writer in the group.

They were right. Jefferson was thirty-three years old. It took him seventeen days to write the document. The Second Continental Congress approved it on July fourth, seventeen seventy-six.

It was America's Declaration of Independence.

Historian Gordon Wood at Brown University says the declaration sent a message to more than just the British.

"They're trying to, I think, to signal to the world, 'We are a new nation. We have broken away from this other nation. We're a separate nation and we want recognition of our independence.'"

The Declaration of Independence begins with these words:

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.

The declaration goes on to say:

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.

The British believed that the Americans were violating British law. Jefferson argued that the British treatment of the American colonies violated the natural laws of God.

This idea of natural law had been expressed by British and French philosophers more than one hundred years earlier. Jefferson had studied these philosophers in school. But in writing the Declaration of Independence, he said, the words came straight from his heart.

The declaration goes on to list twenty-seven complaints against the king. There are complaints against taxes without the consent of the colonists and against the presence of British troops in the colonies.

After the list, Jefferson went on to write this statement:

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 the full power to levy war, conduct peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do.

Jefferson concluded the declaration with a line that was meant to persuade the delegates to support the most serious step -- revolution.

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.

Delegates to Continental Congress approved and signed the Declaration of Independence on July fourth, seventeen seventy-six. The new country was called the United States of America, and it was at war with Britain. Yet, not everyone in the former colonies agreed with the decision. That will be our story next week.

You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at www.voanews.cn. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. Christopher Cruise read the words of Thomas Jefferson. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION -- American history in VOA Special English.

上次我们讲到麻萨诸塞殖民地的民兵和英国部队在列克星敦和康科德交战。那时候,双方还没有正式宣战,但是十三个殖民地的民兵们都已经做好了征战的准备。

*统帅坚持无偿服务*

在宾夕法尼亚殖民地的费城召开的第二届大陆会议面临的第一个问题就是,应该由谁出面把这些民兵组织成一支部队。最后,会议代表一直推选参加过法印战争的乔治.华盛顿。大家觉得,他是殖民地里最适合担任军事统帅的人。华盛顿欣然接过了这一重担,但坚持要求无偿服务,并立即动身赶赴波士顿。

参加第二届大陆会议的代表们为防止跟英国交战而做出最后的努力。他们致信乔治国王,向他陈情,要求寻找解决的办法,但是乔治国王连信都不肯看。

大家也许觉得奇怪,既然殖民地的民兵都已经摩拳擦掌,大陆会议的代表为什么还要尽量避免跟英国交战呢?答案很简单,当时大陆会议的成员,乃至大多数殖民者,并不想彻底脱离英国。他们仍然相信,不用宣布独立,也可以享受更多的自治。事实证明,情况并非如此。

*邦克山战役*

大陆会议任命乔治.华盛顿担任大陆军统帅的两天后,殖民者和英国部队打响了美国独立战争第一场重大战役--邦克山战役。邦克山战役其实包括两座山,一个是邦克山,另一个是布里德山,两座山都座落在波士顿对面,中间隔着查尔斯河。

1775年6月的一个晚上,麻萨诸塞殖民地的士兵在布里德山连夜挖战壕,修工事,到凌晨的时候,山上已经布满了士兵。英国人从河对岸发起进攻。殖民地的士兵因为缺少弹药,所以不得不等英国人跨过查尔斯河,快攻到跟前的时候再开火。据说,当时指挥官的命令是,一直要等看见英军士兵的眼白,才能开枪。

英军第一次进攻,被殖民地的民兵击退,第二次进攻,又被击退,第三次她们顺利攻上了山头,但是殖民地的民兵已经杳无踪影,因为他们没有弹药了。英军部队因此占领了布里德山。在邦克山战役中,英军被打死一千多人,殖民地的民兵损失了大约四百人。这场战役打消了和解的任何希望。英国国王乔治宣布殖民地反叛,北美殖民地则发表宣言,谴责英国1763年以来的所作所为。

1775年,北美殖民地跟英国军队打了好几场战役,但是殖民地依旧没有正式宣战。次年,英国决定花钱招募德国的黑森雇佣兵来对付北美殖民地。北美殖民地很害怕黑森雇佣兵,对英国人的这种做法深恶痛绝。

*《常识》热销*

大约同一时间,托马斯.潘恩发表了一份对北美殖民地人民产生了巨大影响的文件,叫《常识》(Common Sense)。 这份文件抨击乔治国王和王权统治,号召人们争取独立。

Common Sense 在美洲热销十五万份,成了街头巷尾议论的话题。大陆会议因此开始行动,向外国航运开放美洲港口,并敦促殖民地建立州政府,拟订宪法。参加大陆会议的维吉尼亚代表理查德.亨利.李提出了独立的议案。

这项议案没有立即得到通过。宣布独立是极其重大的决定,在这种文件上签字的大陆会议代表都将被英国视为叛徒,如果被俘,就是死罪。

大陆会议的代表们希望让全世界都知道,他们为什么要宣布独立,因此专门指定了一个委员会去撰写一份文件,说明他们选择独立的原因。

这个委员会的成员之一就是维吉尼亚州的托马斯.杰斐逊,他曾经发表过一篇批判英国统治制度的报告,所以委员会的其他成员要求他来准备这份新文件,说他是委员会里文笔最好的作家。杰斐逊不负众望,仅仅用了17天的时间就完成了任务。这份文件1776年7月4号得到大陆委员会代表的批准,这就是美国的独立宣言。

*独立宣言:人民有权更换政府*

杰斐逊撰写的独立宣言分为两部分,第一部分解释说,人人都有反叛的权利,并描述了北美殖民地创建一个新的、共和体制的理念。独立宣言一上来说:

“在人类事务的发展过程中,当一个民族必须解除同另一个民族的关系,并按照自然法则和上帝的旨意,以独立平等的身份立于世界列国之林时,出于对人类舆论的尊重,必须把驱使他们独立的原因予以宣布。”

“我们认为下述真理是不言而喻的:人人生而平等,造物主赋予他们若干不可让与的权利,其中包括生存权、自由权和追求幸福的权利。为了保障这些权利,人类才在他们中间建立政府,而政府的正当权力,则是经被统治者同意所授予的。”

独立宣言接下来阐述了北美殖民地决定独立的原因,那就是,任何形式的政府一旦对这些目标的实现起破坏作用时,人民便有权予以更换或废除。

这就是美洲殖民地反叛的原因。英国认为殖民地违反了英国的法律。杰斐逊驳回了这种指控。他宣称,英国对待美洲殖民地的做法违背了自然规则。杰斐逊等人相信,自然法规高于王权。英国和法国哲学家一百年前提出了自然法的概念,杰斐逊上学时就曾研习过。但是他后来表示,他撰写独立宣言时并没有回去温习这些概念,独立宣言里的话都是他的肺腑之言。

*对英国政府的27条控诉*

独立宣言的第二部分列举了美洲殖民地对英国政府的27条控诉,重要内容涉及英国对美洲征税和英国军队在殖民地的驻扎。杰斐逊在宣言最后写道:

“我们这些联合起来的殖民地现在是,而且按公理也应该是,独立自由的国家。我们取消对英国王室效忠的一切义务,我们与大不列颠王国之间的一切政治联系从此全部断绝,而且必须断绝;作为一个独立自由的国家,我们完全有权宣战、缔和、结盟、通商和采取独立国家有权采取的一切行动。我们坚定地信赖神明上帝的保佑,同时以我们的生命、财产和神圣的名誉彼此宣誓来支援这一宣言。”