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Thursday, 03 December, 2020

The Road Toward Independence (final part of two)

Date: 15 July, 2010

By: Chief

To read part one.

Imageello again. Let us pick up where we left off.

Under the quill

What is utterly astounding is not all that many changes were made to the Declaration. Indeed most of the changes Jefferson penned in himself though annotating who suggested the change. Primarily it was Franklin and Adams suggesting changes. Hence, I suspect those changes were done during the Committee of Five editing process. However, I could be very wrong about that.

It appears the biggest deletion was the slavery clause. And the biggest addition was the first part of the Lee resolution. According to Wikipedia:

"Congress made a few changes in wording and deleted nearly a fourth of the text, most notably a passage critical of the slave trade, changes that Jefferson resented. On July 4, 1776, the wording of the Declaration of Independence was approved and sent to the printer for publication."

By its very wording the slavery clause was an indictment against Fat George (King George III) and possibly Parliament itself.

Here is the deleted slavery clause:

"[H]e has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another."

Wow! What an indictment of Fat George himself. "[P]iratical warfare." Jefferson was calling the King of England a pirate. At the time, I believe, to call the king or queen a pirate was cause for arrest, trial (after some torture of course) and subsequent execution for treason.

The right of revolution

To me what makes the Declaration of Independence unique is the right of revolution or right of rebellion clause. It makes clear the point that if a government acts contrary to liberty or to the people's "unalienable Rights," it is the right and the duty of the people to "alter or to abolish it." Here is the entire right of revolution clause as adopted by the Second Continental Congress:

"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, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

God I do love that section — especially the final sentence. Truthfully it brings tears to my eyes each and every time I read it.

Signing the Declaration

How weird, but there is ongoing dispute as to the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Some historians believe it was signed on the Fourth of July. Others say nay. It may not have been completely signed until sometime in early to mid September or October

I submit it could not have been signed completely on July the Fourth as some members who did eventually sign the Declaration had not even been elected to the Continental Congress until after July the Fourth. Furthermore some, such Samuel Chase and Richard Henry Lee, were away from Congress on the Fourth.

It is my feeling that John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, did place his decorative signature on the document along with Charles Thomson, Congressional Secretary, as witness (attesting), on July Fourth. Additionally it was this Declaration that was first published (the Dunlap broadside) far and wide.

The reason for Hancock's large signature on the Declaration has also been debated. Quoting Wikipedia:

"According to legend, Hancock signed his name largely and clearly so that King George could read it without his spectacles, but this fanciful story did not appear until many years later."

In truth nobody factually knows why Hancock signed his name the way he did. The signature is almost five inches long. I suspect Hancock did what he did as kind of an "up yours" or "fuck you" to Fat George and possibly General Thomas Gage, who at that time was the Military Royal Governor of Massachusetts as well as the senior commander of the British troops in the Boston area. It was Gage, after the battle at Lexington and Concord, who issued a proclamation granting (quoting Wikipedia):

"[A] general pardon to all who would 'lay down their arms, and return to the duties of peaceable subjects' - with the exceptions of Hancock and Samuel Adams. Singling out Hancock and Adams in this manner only added to their renown among Patriots."

Hence John Hancock was absolutely correct in letting Fat George and General Gage know what he was up to — in a gentlemanly sort of way. Or in the vernacular — 'You can't catch me and furthermore you suck'.

Besides which, if he was caught by the redcoats, he would be hanged. So why not add insult to injury and — flip 'em off? It does show a plethora of spirit.

The question

So when should we celebrate our independence? An interesting question is it not? The actual resolution of independence, the Lee Resolution, was adopted on the Second of July and the Declaration of Independence was adopted on the Fourth of July.

As for me I think We the People should celebrate for three consecutive days. The second, third and the fourth. Why? To honor the founders of this country and far more important-Lee (I couldn't resist), to properly celebrate the birth of this country.

In closing, here are the last three verses from the song "The Egg" sung by Adams, Franklin and Jefferson about the birth of the new nation (from the movie musical 1776):

[Adams:] "The eagle's going to crack the shell of the egg that England laid --

[All:] "Yes, so we can tell, tell, tell on this humid Monday morning in this Congressional incubator --

[Franklin:] "And just as Tom here has written ... though the egg may belong to Great Britain, the eagle inside belongs to us!

[All:] "And just as Tom here has written ... we say to hell with Great Britain! The eagle inside belongs to us!"

Or, if you would prefer, here is the video (You Tube) of "The Egg."

Either way — enjoy.

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