Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Spirit of '76, Pt. II: If you're lost, check the map

Independence Hall, Philadelphia
     This is the second of two parts of a July 4 look at the Declaration of Independence. Part I, "Despair is not a success strategy," can be found here.  

    It is essentially a memo drafted by a committee, albeit one that had the good sense to delegate the work to the best writer in the group, Thomas Jefferson.
     The 33-year-old Virginian required —anyone sweating a deadline please take note — 18 days to turn around his assignment, writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence in quill and ink in his rented two-room suite at the home of Philadelphia bricklayer Jacob Gaff.
     I would imagine the average supposedly patriotic American ready to expound on how the intentions of the founders should guide our daily lives today has little idea of what the Declaration of Independence actually says.
     Such as our president, currently picking a new Supreme Court justice to serve for 20 or 30 years, eagerly embracing the supposed original intentions of the founders, when useful. But what were the intentions of our founders, originally? As outlined at the start, in our founding document, the first roadmap, a declaration so important we honor its final adoption on July 4, 1776 to this very day.
     The Declaration of Independence formally announces our break with Great Britain. But why? Does it give a hint of a reason, beyond the famous but vague phrases about self-evident truths and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
     Yes, it does. The bulk of 1337 words are a protracted list of grievances against one man, King George III, the “Author of our Miseries,” to use the words of Richard Henry Lee.


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