Saturday, July 2, 2016
Declaration of Independence
Our national birthday is Monday, July 4, 2016. We are 240 years old. Celebrate with all the exuberance of exploding Roman candles. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
John Hancock, president of the congress signed his name in big bold letters so King George III of England could read it without his glasses so the story goes. Only two signers eventually became president of the United States. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Interestingly, they both died on July 4, 1826 the year the fledgling country they virtually created celebrated its 50th birthday.
John Adams was the major force behind the writing of the constitution and it basically follows the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which Adams wrote. The Massachusetts' constitution is the oldest living constitution in existence.
The Declaration of Independence was created almost wholly by Thomas Jefferson. A strange and interesting fact is that on the same day (July 4, 1776) in Scotland a book was published: The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.
Mr. Smith's book has the phrase, "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the ownership of property . . ." This same phrase is in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence with a small change, yet the two men never met or corresponded in life.
When I visited Monticello, in the basement was a case containing an original working copy of the declaration with cross-outs, insertions, and marginal notes. Jefferson had first written "the ownership of property" crossed it out and inserted "the pursuit of happiness." Today the Declaration is held to be a major world document of freedom and herald the birth of a new nation. The Wealth of Nations is recognized as the bible of capitalism, the foundation of the economic system of that new nation.
Jefferson was a redhead with a temper to match, who could blow a fuse in an instant and in the next breath extinguish the personal explosion. A careful reading of The Declaration of Independence brilliantly illustrates this facet of his famous personality.
The first two paragraphs pour forth with smooth eloquent tone, style, and phraseology. His sentences become shorter and more precise ranging to blunt in the middle dispensing with the formal word "he" as if this passionate fiery young man is shaking his fist in the face of the king. Then he reverts back to the "he" for cooler, calmer statements and ends the document with two paragraphs in the same formal style as the beginning.
Read it for yourself. Would you risk all you possess to sign it? A librarian friend of mine typed out a copy and took it to a park in Philadelphia where the original was signed. After asking over 300 people he managed to obtain 21 signatures, which didn't equal the 36 who did.
Celebrate - celebrate. Wave the red, white, and blue, light the firecrackers, picnic with friends and family, watch the parades, and remember the men who granted you the privilege of celebrating the anniversary of the birth of a nation - 240 years of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Keep it safe for the next generation.
"I gave you a Republic. It is up to you to keep it." Benjamin Franklin was in France laying the foundation for what was to come and didn't sign the Declaration.