The Working Men's Declaration of Independence
[Written in 1829 by George H. Evans (1805-56), this document appeared in the Working Man's Advocate of New York and the Mechanic's Free Press of Philadelphia. Evans helped found the Working Man's Party in New York City during 1829.]
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary" for one class of a community to assert their natural and unalienable rights in opposition to other classes of their fellow men, "and to assume among" them a political "station of equality to w hich the laws of nature and of nature's God," as well as the principles of their political compact "entitle them; a decent respect to the opinions of mankind," and the more paramount duty they owe to their own fellow citizens, "requires that they should d eclare the causes which impel them" to adopt so painful, yet so necessary, a measure.
"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" aga inst the undue influence of other classes of society, prudence, as well as the claims of self defence, dictates the necessity of the organization of a party, who shall, by their representatives, prevent dangerous combinations to subvert these indefeasible and fundamental privileges. "All experience hath shown, that mankind" in general, and we as a class in particular, "are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves," by an opposition which the pride and self interest of unprincipled political aspirants, with more unprincipled zeal or religious bigotry, will willfully misrepresent. "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations" take place, all invariably tending to the oppression and degradation of one class of society , and to the unnatural and iniquitous exaltation of another by political leaders, "it is their right it is their due ' to use every constitutional means to reform the abuses of such a government and to provide new guards for their future security. The his tory of the political parties in this state, is a history of political iniquities, all tending to the enacting and enforcing oppressive and unequal laws. To prove this, let facts be submitted to the candid and impartial of our fellow citizens of all parti es.
The laws for levying taxes are all based on erroneous principles, in consequence
of their operating most oppressively on one of society, and being scarcely felt
by the other.
The laws regarding the duties of jurors, witnesses, and militia trainings, are still more unequal and oppressive.
The laws for private incorporations are all partial in their operations; favoring one class of society to the expense of the other, who have no equal participation.
The laws incorporating religious societies have a pernicious tendency, by promoting the erection of magnificent places of public worship, by the rich, excluding others, and which others cannot imitate; consequently engendering spiritual pride in the c lergy and people, and thereby creating odious distinctions in society, destructive to its social peace and happiness.
The laws establishing and patronizing seminaries of learning are unequal, favoring the rich, and perpetuating imparity, which natural causes have produced, and which judicious laws ought, and can, remedy.
The laws and municipal ordinances and regulations, generally, besides those specially enumerated, have heretofore been ordained on such principles, as have deprived nine tenths of the members of the body politic, who are not wealthy, of the equal means to enjoy "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" which the rich enjoy exclusively; but the federative compact intended to secure to all, indiscriminately. The lien law in favor of landlords against tenants, and all othe r honest creditors, is one illustration among innumerable others which can be adduced to prove the truth of these allegations.
We have trusted to the influence of the justice and good sense of our political leaders, to prevent the continuance of these abuses, which destroy the natural bands of equality so essential to the attainment of moral happiness, "but they have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity."
Therefore, we, the working class of society, of the city of New York, "appealing
to the supreme judge of the world," and to the reason, and consciences
of the impartial of all parties, "for the rectitude of our intentions,
do, in the spirit, a nd by the authority of that political liberty which has
been promised to us equally with our fellow men, solemnly publish and declare,
and invite all under like pecuniary circumstances, together with every liberal
mind, to join us in the declaration, "tha t we are, & of right ought
to be," entitled to equal means to obtain equal moral happiness, and social
enjoyment, and that all lawful and constitutional measures ought to be adopted
to the attainment of those objects. "And for the support of this declarat
ion, we mutually pledge to each other" our faithful aid to the end of our