Saturday, July 1, 2017

Freedom's Document

July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was approved by the First Continental 
Congress. This bold document severed the political ties of the thirteen original colonies with the government of England.
   It was written almost solely by Thomas Jefferson. The last time I visited his home his working copies were housed in glass cases in the basement. A visitor could see his edits were he worked to polish the final copy.
   Reading the Declaration of Independence one can visualize the young fiery redheaded Jefferson standing in front of King George III delivering an eloquent formal speech of smooth words flowing from his mind, but as it progresses he raises his hand and shakes a finger of indignation under the King's nose with shorter, caustic, and blunter statements of grievances. He then regains control of his temper and returns to articulate phrasing of the beginning.
   At one time every student in America learned the preamble to repeat to their classmates. The stirring words: "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 . . ." could be instantly brought to mind. To honor this document and the purpose for which it was written is the reason for the fourth of July holiday and not to be forgotten amidst the fireworks, picnics, parades, and family celebrations.
  This brief document is one of the major hallmarks of freedom in the history of governments and affairs of people. Today the original copy of the document is housed in a special climate controlled vault in the National Archives. That wasn't the case in August, 1814 when it and other documents pertaining to the government were kept in the office of the Secretary of State.
   When word arrived that the British warships were in Chesapeake Bay James Monroe (Secretary of State) sent a note to John Graham, his chief clerk and Stephen Pleasonton, an aide to "take care" of the valuable documents housed in his department.
  Pleasonton followed orders, though General John Armstrong (Secretary of War) advised them there was no cause for alarm. He cut the Declaration of Independence from its frame, stuffed it along with other books, treaties, and deliberations of Congress into protective linen bags they had had made for the removal. Then they were loaded into carts and moved to a mill outside of Washington, D.C.
   Pleasonton still did not consider them safe. He procured wagons and took them to Leesburg, Virginia where he housed them in a vacant farmhouse. Later when Monroe became president he rewarded Pleasonton for his diligence and appointed him custodian of the nation's lighthouses.
  Jefferson became the third president of the United States. John Adams, who devised the Constitution and became the second president both died on July 4, 1826 as the new county they largely created celebrated its fiftieth birthday.




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