Editor’s Note:  Not all Declarations of Independence are created equal.  Some lead to the enfranchisement of the great majority of a society, and others only advance the interests of a relatively small number within a populace. Even our vaunted July 4, 1776 declaration, while overwhelmingly supported by white Americans (especially white male Americans), could be seen at the time as a setback for black Americans, though much later on in our nation’s history the document was a galvanizing rallying cry for the marginalized. Rhodesia’s declaration is more problematic, advancing the interests of the nation’s 220,000 white settlers, while setting back tragically any possibilities for advancements in self-determination by the nation’s nearly 4 million black citizens. After it was issued, the UN Security Council decried the move. It called for a boycott of Rhodesia and it led to the imposition of economic sanctions. British authorities opposed it because it did not include genuine independence for the black population of Rhodesia, contrary to what was seen as the hypocritical claim of Rhodesia’s Prime Minister, Ian Smith, that the declaration, which is reminiscent in language and rhetoric to our July 4, 1776 document, was in order “so that dignity and freedom of all may be assured”.

Unilateral Declaration of Independence  (1965)
by the Government of Rhodesia


Whereas in the course of human affairs history has shown that it may become necessary for a people to resolve the political affiliations which have connected them with another people and to assume amongst other nations the separate and equal status to which they are entitled:

And Whereas in such event a respect for the opinions of mankind requires them to declare to other nations the causes which impel them to assume full responsibility for their own affairs:

Now Therefore, We, The Government of Rhodesia, Do Hereby Declare:

That it is an indisputable and accepted historic fact that since 1923 the Government of Rhodesia have exercised the powers of self-government and have been responsible for the progress, development and welfare of their people;

That the people of Rhodesia having demonstrated their loyalty to the Crown and to their kith and kin in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through two world wars, and having been prepared to shed their blood and give of their substance in what they believed to be the mutual interests of freedom-loving people, now see all that they have cherished about to be shattered on the rocks of expediency;

That the people of Rhodesia have witnessed a process which is destructive of those very precepts upon which civilization in a primitive country has been built, they have seen the principles of Western democracy, responsible government and moral standards crumble elsewhere, nevertheless they have remained steadfast;

That the people of Rhodesia fully support the requests of their government for sovereign independence but have witnessed the consistent refusal of the Government of the United Kingdom to accede to their entreaties;

That the Government of the United Kingdom have thus demonstrated that they are not prepared to grant sovereign independence to Rhodesia on terms acceptable to the people of Rhodesia, thereby persisting in maintaining an unwarrantable jurisdiction over Rhodesia, obstructing laws and treaties with other states and the conduct of affairs with other nations and refusing assent to laws necessary for the public good, all this to the detriment of the future peace, prosperity and good government of Rhodesia;

That the Government of Rhodesia have for a long period patiently and in good faith negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom for the removal of the remaining limitations placed upon them and for the grant of sovereign independence;

That in the belief that procrastination and delay strike at and injure the very life of the nation, the Government of Rhodesia consider it essential that Rhodesia should attain, without delay, sovereign independence, the justice of which is beyond question;

Now Therefore, We The Government of Rhodesia, in humble submission to Almighty God who controls the destinies of nations, conscious that the people of Rhodesia have always shown unswerving loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty the Queen and earnestly praying that we and the people of Rhodesia will not be hindered in our determination to continue exercising our undoubted right to demonstrate the same loyalty and devotion, and seeking to promote the common good so that the dignity and freedom of all men may be assured, Do, By This Proclamation, adopt, enact and give to the people of Rhodesia the Constitution annexed hereto;

God Save The Queen

The coat of arms of Rhodesia

Given under Our Hand at Salisbury, this eleventh day of November in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five.

Prime Minister (signed by Ian Smith)

Deputy Prime Minister (signed by Clifford Dupont)

Ministers (signed by John Wrathall; Desmond Lardner-Burke; Jack Howman; James Graham, 7th Duke of Montrose; George Rudland; William Harper; A. P. Smith; Ian McLean; Jack Mussett; and Phillip van Heerden)



Alternative source and further reading:

Colonialism: An International Social, Cultural, and Political Encyclopedia, Melvin E. Page, Ed., Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2013


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