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Independence Day and the Declaration

Independence Day and the Declaration

For those of you who are celebrating it, happy Independence Day!

As I mentioned before, gnomi and I will be going to the Old State House to hear the Declaration read, as it has been every year on July 4th since 1777. Then, this afternoon, we'll watch the movie 1776, as is our tradition.

I spent a little time yesterday poking around the Internet about the Declaration, and have found a few webpages that might interest people:

Of course, the omitted passage that I always find of most interest is as follows:

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivatng and 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 and 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, by murdering the people for 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.

With this passage, Jefferson would have outlawed slavery in the United States of America. Congress was unable to do so because of the objections of the southern congressman, in particular Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, who at the time was the youngest member of Congress, only 27 years old. Rutledge refused to endorse or sign the Declaration so long as it contained that passage. When Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin finally gave in, Adams presciently noted that slavery would lead to troubles "a hundred years hence."


The line about slavery leading to trouble within a hundred years was in an early draft of 1776, but was cut out, because the playwrights decided that everyone would think that it was an anachronistic nod to the Civil War, and that people would have trouble suspending disbelief -- it would have looked like an author-insertion to make Adams look cooler, even though it was something Adams actually said. . .
I don't see how inserting that item in the Declaration's list of grievances would have outlawed slavery. Perhaps you mean that had it been left in the states would have had to outlaw slavery, or look silly and hypocritical. I'm not sure they'd all have let that worry them, though. As it is, some of their grievances looked pretty silly and hypocritical even at the time, and that didn't stop them.

December 2016

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