Declarations of Independence

It's always instructive to reread the Declaration of Independence, as much for the poetry and potency of the language as for its assertion of our rights as a nation. I got in the habit of reading it every Independence Day some years back and it never fails to leave an impression.

The oft-quoted Preamble contains one of the most famous sentences ever written, asserting “the right of revolution”. In effect, it says that people have certain rights and when the government violates those rights they are entitled and have the duty to alter or abolish that government.

The latter part of the document is a list of grievances against King George and England, reading like one of the most eloquent break up letters ever written. Politicians both liberal and conservative, from Green Party to Tea Party have cherry-picked quotes for their own purposes. The most telling phrase of intent was made evident this week when a spectral reading of an early draft revealed an early correction. Thomas Jefferson scratched out the word “subject” and replaced it with “citizen”.

I can think of no more apt summation of the document than what that correction implies. I actually got a bit of a chill when that was revealed. It's particularly important when you recall that several of our founding fathers, including Alexander Hamilton, wanted to establish a monarchy instead of a democratic republic.

The founding fathers got many things wrong (slavery, treatment of Native Americans, those silly white wigs, etc.). But this was one they got right.

Happy Independence Day (I simply can't relegate it to being called 4th of July) to all fellow citizens.