Preserving the Declaration

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A fascinating little video on preserving the Declaration of Independence. 

It is of course very important that the physical document be preserved.  However, it is much more important that the spirit of the document be preserved.  On the Fourth of July we do not merely engage in ancestor worship.  The principles of the American Revolution, immortally set forth in the Declaration, are just as important today as they were then, and almost as controversial. 

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.

1.  God given rights.

2.  Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.

3.  A right of revolution when Government becomes destructive of God given unalienable rights.

Growing up with these concepts most Americans fail to understand how truly revolutionary these assertions were in 1776, and how revolutionary they truly still are around much of the globe.

In my family each year on the Fourth we have a family reading of the Declaration, each member of the family reading a part of the text.  The Declaration was not meant to be shut up in books, forgotten, or worshiped as some sort of priceless heirloom.  It was meant to be read, thought about and argued about.  On the Fourth next Monday, along with the barbecues, the fireworks, and enjoying the day off, take a few minutes to look at the text of the Declaration, and remember that what is said there is not reserved for just one day of the calendar alone.  At least we can do better with the Declaration after brushing up on it a bit, than Barney Fife did with the Preamble to the Constitution!

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17 Responses to Preserving the Declaration

  • One of the myths about the Declaration is that it was adopted and signed July 4, 1776 by all members of the Continental Congress. Actually July 4 was the day the draft was voted on and on that day not all the delegates had approved it and there were no signers at all.

    One state, New York, did not even vote on it until July 9. The actual signing was even more gradual and it is quite misleading to speak of the “56 original signers of the Declaration of Independence.” By August 6 most of those whose names are on the document had signed, but at least six signatures were attached later. One signer, Thomas McKean, did not attach his name until 1781!

    Some of those who signed were not even in Congress when the Declaration was adopted, and some who voted for it in Congress never did get around to signing it. Robert R. Livingston was one of the committee of five who helped frame it; he voted for it, but he never signed it. The other members of the committee included Thomas Jefferson, who performed the actual writing, but his version was revised by Ben Franklin, John Adams and Jefferson himself before it went to Congress, which then did some editing of is own, winding up with a terser version than the expanded, wonderful language crafted by Jefferson, et al, which sets forth the theory of this new country’s government and the justification for the break in the light of the specific grievances that its people had endured.

    All of this sausage-making, of course, does not detract from the final product, which, as Don suggests, a magnificent Declaration.

    However, in the interest of historical accuracy, all those July 4 celebrations are a tad early and should really be held sometime in August. :lol:

    Source: The Dictionary of Mislnformation by Tom Burnam

  • July 4 is good as any other date in regard to the Declaration process Joe and better than most. It has been hallowed by tradition and Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the fiftieth anniversary of the Fourth, a highly unusual coincidence to say the least.

    This video has John Adams correcting the misunderstanding that the Declaration was signed on the Fourth:

  • The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

    ~ John Adams

  • One of many predictions about the future that the ever certain John Adams got wrong! :)

  • Well, he appears to have gotten everything else right other than the date right. The only thing he left out was the barbecue ribs, burgers, hot dogs, and beer.

    ;-)

  • On the Fourth of July we do not merely engage in ancestor worship.

    So you’re saying on the Fourth we do engage in ancestor worship (but not just that)? :razz:

    Reading Joe Green’s post, my first thought was “Someone needs to link to that clip of Adams correcting Reubens,” but Don beat me to it! :grin:

  • I admit I hadn’t watched the clip before posting. Happy Fourth, everyone! :smile:

  • “On the Fourth of July we do not merely engage in ancestor worship.”

    Ah, the limitations of the English language, or the limitations of my ability to wield it! :)

  • Ack! I meant “Trumball” when I wrote “Rebuens”! :oops: As Mr. Adams pointed out, the latter is definitely not the former. :wink:

  • *”Reubens”! Again with the bad spelling!

  • That video clip of Barney Fife is priceless. I used to love the Andy Griffiths Show.

    Must confess, that is the first time I have read the Declaration of Independence right through.

    But there is another, and more important connection in my family to the 4th. July. It is the birthday of my youngest very beautiful grandaughter who turns 6 on Monday –
    Oh, but I have always said she is our American connection, and will teach her the Declaration of Independence. ;-) ;-)

  • Happy Birthday on the Fourth to your granddaughter Don! I am glad that you will teach her about the Declaration of Independence. The Founding Fathers did not intend the truths contained therein for Americans alone.

    Don Knotts was a true comedic genius and Barney Fife was his greatest creation.

    Part of my Fourth of July film viewing will be Beneath Hill 60 if it comes in the mail in time. What more American way to celebrate the Fourth than by watching a film about Aussie sappers on the Western Front in World War I!

  • May be a bit off-topic, but in the patriotic spirit, may I respectfully recommend that everyone read “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, as well as “Devil at My Heels,” by Louis Zamperini, a still-living member of America’s Greatest Generation. Inspiring beyond words. A story of courage, resilience and, most of all, faith. (Don, a highly linkable topic some day.)

  • This is an OT, but please, please pray for my brother-in-law.

    He has had a persistent, dry cough for a month now and it is not improving with antibiotics. I am deeply frightened (as is my sister, a RN) because he sounds exactly like my mother did when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. He is 60 years old – and you have not met a kinder more generous man.

    His CT scan was scheduled for today. I have not yet heard back from my sister. I have said so many Hail Marys in the past 4 days or so.

    150 people got laid off from my place of employment today. My job was saved; I was scared that I would lose it. However, I’d gladly trade my job for my brother-in-law’s good heath if I could. Nevertheless, I pray for those who got laid off. I saw many crying people today. It was awful. And nobody will be screaming in Madison for them.

  • The Declaration was not meant to be shut up in books, forgotten, or worshiped as some sort of priceless heirloom. It was meant to be read, thought about and argued about.

    In that same vein, far be it for me to disparage Barney Fife’s effort with the Preamble to the Constitution, but the following link has to be the best exposition of it in the known universe – and I think Fred Steiner wrote the music accomanying it!

  • Well done Jonathan! Kirk the Canadian explaining the Preamble to us has been touched on before by me:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2009/06/30/the-omega-glory/

    I have always found it as the most moving passage in the original Trek.

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