My brother is a teacher, and he couldn't find any translation of the Declaration of Independence -- a nice document, but an awfully wordy way of saying 'go screw yourself, Majesty' -- into language that his students might understand.
I found this for him in a book that appeared to be owned by only four libraries anywhere. Fortunately, I knew some of the librarians at one of those four libraries, and they faxed me this excerpt of the book within the hour. My brother was stunned to see how quickly I could make a solution to his problems show up on the fax machine down at the school's office. I told him, "Never underestimate a librarian." That's the moral of this story.
Well, having found it, I figured it might come in handy for one or more of you guys. So here's the translation:
The Declaration of Independence
(In Modern English)
Unanimously adopted at Philadelphia July 4, 1776
We ought to give reasons for this declaration.
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
All men are created equal: They have natural rights they can't give up.
Life -- Liberty -- The Pursuit of Happiness.
Governments are set up to secure these rights.
Governments get their power from the consent of the people.
When a government destroys this purpose,
the PEOPLE have a right to change it and set up a new government
with a better chance of giving people safety and happiness.
WE SHOULDN'T BE HASTY
Most people are more willing to suffer than change. But enough is enough!
We've had it as colonies of England. King George is determined to grind us down.
LOOK AT WHAT HE HAS DONE TO US!
King George won't approve laws for the public good.
He won't let his governors of the colonies pass necessary laws and he drags his feet when they are approved.
He has blackmailed us by refusing to OK laws until we give up our representations.
He has tried to wear down our legislators by making them meet in out of the way places.
He has dissolved our legislatures when they oppose his tyranny.
This has left us without defense from invasion and domestic disorder.
AND THAT'S NOT ALL!
The King tried to keep people from coming to the colonies.
He won't approve laws for setting up courts.
He makes judges serve at his will and for whatever he wants to pay them.
THERE'S MUCH MORE!
He has sent swarms of officers here to harass us and waste our money.
He keeps armies here without our consent.
He has put the Military above civil law.
He has subjected us to courts against our constitution.
HIS SOLDIERS ARE GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER!
He lets them get away with murder by mock trials.
He has cut off our trade with the rest of the world.
He has slapped on taxes without our consent.
He has often canceled trial by jury.
He has hauled us off to England for pretended offenses.
He has wiped out the free system of English law in Canada.
Now he hopes to do the same to us.
He has taken away our charters.
He has destroyed our legislatures.
Instead of protecting us he is fighting against us!
He has ripped off our shipping.
Wasted our coasts. Burned our towns.
Killed our people.
He has sent hired armies here to kill our people and ruin our country with such cruelty as the world has never seen.
HE EVEN MAKES US MURDER OUR OWN BROTHERS
The King has captured our citizens on the high seas.
He has made them join his armies or be shot!
This has made them murderers of their own brothers.
NOBODY WILL LISTEN TO US!
Every patient petition from us has led to another abuse. We've talked to Englishmen who know about this and they've turned a deaf ear.
SO WE'VE HAD ALL WE CAN TAKE!
From now on they are our enemies in war -- friends in peace.
AS GOD IS OUR JUDGE
WE "declare that these United Colonies
are, and of Right ought to be,
Free and Independent States."
All ties with Great Britain are ended.
"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."
SOURCE: Hersey, William D. "Your Handbook to the American Dream: the Constitution of the United States in Modern English, Including the Words of the Official Document".