The Story of our Declaration of Independence

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On this, the most quintessential of American Holidays, I wish to delve a bit into the subject that is the Declaration of Independence. It was penned by the great Thomas Jefferson when he was but thirty three-years old. He was one of a committee of five that were formed to bring forth the reasons for our separation from Great Britain. The committee members were (in no particular order):

  • Thomas Jefferson
  • John Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robert R. Livingston
  • Roger Sherman

A vote was taken by the committee as to who would draft the statement and Jefferson came in first followed by Adams. An interesting footnote is that Adams presented Jefferson with his reasons as to why he ought to be the one to pen the document.

John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

“Reason first—You are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second—I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third—You can write ten times better than I can.”

Jefferson wrote the document in his residence where he occupied the entire second floor of a three story house owned by a bricklayer named Graff. It was said that after Jefferson’s death the baby infant of Graff was consistently told that he had often sat on a great man’s knee.

The writing itself took place in the parlor of Jefferson’s domicile on a desk that contained a small writing box that was of Jefferson’s own design. He had previously rented from a cabinet maker who constructed it from drawings made by Jefferson. During the last year of his life, he gave it to the husband of his favorite granddaughter, Ellen Randolph. He was to have said about the box, “It claims no merit of particular beauty. It is plain, neat, convenient and, taking no more room on the writing table than a moderate quarto volume, it displays itself sufficiently for any writing.” (Quarto volume is what we recognize as a middle-sized hardbound book.)

Jefferson never claimed originality of the idea of governance, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” instead he remarked that he was only distilling “common sense” on the subject. True the idea of democracy dates back to the Romans and the Greeks, but in Jefferson’s time, it was a very hot topic. Jefferson expounded on the idea of natural law and the nature of government.

In the second paragraph, Jefferson articulated an entire system of philosophy with his theory on that natural law and governance issue. It stems from property

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence
Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence

rights and builds upon that. Jefferson did not separate property rights from political rights. For he felt that if one is denied property rights, then one cannot truly have political rights. Property is of course more than just what one owns, it goes to what one does to obtain property. Therefore property, as expressed by Jefferson is one’s individuality. If a government takes 40 or 50% (or more) of a person’s income (property), then that person is not truly free. For when half of one’s work goes to the government, it ceases to belong to that person.

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This idea is expressed in what is possibly the most famous sentence in the American lexicon:

“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.”

But when presented to Congress, over twenty five percent of Jefferson’s original document was deleted. In what was at the time, a controversial move, Congress struck out what they viewed as a scathing indictment of the slave trade. Of course, Jefferson resented the changes and said that the passages were “struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves & who on the contrary still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren also, I believe, felt a little under those censures; for tho’ their people have very few slaves themselves, yet they have been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.” Congress also got rid of passages that conveyed a censure on the people of England. Jefferson’s reaction? “…the pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with still haunted the minds of many.”

At least Congress left the ideas of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, they did change it from “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…” to “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

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Lastly, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence wasn’t really a declaration of independence at all. Rather it was an explanation of the actual declaration formally approved by Congress two days before, on July 2, 1776. That declaration was written by Richard Henry Lee, an active and respected patriot of Virginia’s congressional delegation.

It was titled: “A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in General Congress assembled.” Therefore our actual declaration of independence wasn’t even called that. And ironically, John Adams was known to have said in a now-famous letter to his wife that future generations of Americans would celebrate America’s independence from England on July 2nd and it would become a great American holiday. Of course, as we all know and history has shown, we celebrate our independence on the date that Jefferson’s document explaining our reasoning behind our declaration of independence was announced, July 4th.

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 to 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 shown 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.

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Founding Fathers’ Quotes on the People’s Right to Bear Arms

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Just three days after the horrible shooting in Newtown Connecticut, progressive forces are in full “never let a crisis go to waste” mode to advance their anti-gun agenda.  They have allowed no time for mourning and are striking while the iron is hot.  It’s a selfish and shameful act that is driving the national debate towards gun control and the away from the root cause of our problem; the devaluing of human life.  I decided that the best people to help make the case for those of us who cherish America and our second amendment rights are our founding fathers.  Below are some quotes from the founders on the people’s right to bear arms.  Take a few minutes to read them.

“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
George Mason
Co-author of the Second Amendment
during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788

“A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves …”
Richard Henry Lee
writing in Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republic, Letter XVIII, May, 1788.

“The people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full posession of them.”
Zachariah Johnson
Elliot’s Debates, vol. 3 “The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution.”

“… the people are confirmed by the next article in their right to keep and bear their private arms”
Philadelphia Federal Gazette
June 18, 1789, Pg. 2, Col. 2
Article on the Bill of Rights

“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …”
Samuel Adams
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, “Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State”

“Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurrences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”
George Washington
First President of the United States

“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside … Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”
Thomas Paine

“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Richard Henry Lee
American Statesman, 1788

“The great object is that every man be armed.” and “Everyone who is able may have a gun.”
Patrick Henry
American Patriot

“Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation, that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?”
Patrick Henry
American Patriot

“Those who hammer their guns into plowshares will plow for those who do not.”
Thomas Jefferson
Third President of the United States

“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that … it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; … “
Thomas Jefferson
letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824. ME 16:45.

“The best we can help for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
Alexander Hamilton
The Federalist Papers at 184-8

H/T cap-n-ball.com

The federal government should not be injecting itself in this issue.  First off they have no constitutional authority to restrict gun ownership no matter what President Obama believes.  Secondly this is a states issue and should be addressed at the local level.  A cookie cutter approach will not work because of the uniqueness of each community across America.  My question is where was all the progressive outrage over Fast and Furious?  Something to think about.

Liberty forever, freedom for all!  .

Original Post:  The Sentry Journal

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