Drafting the Declaration of Independence
On June 11, 1776, Congress appointed a "Committee of Five" to draft the Declaration of Independence:
" I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee
I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and
Mr. Adams requesting their corrections…."
Adams and Franklin then sharpened their--what I imagine as--feathered editing quills and went to work.
Q. Which phrase did Jefferson's first draft contain:
"We hold these truths to be _______________________;"
(a) sacred and undeniable;
A. Jefferson penned (a) in his initial draft; but as we all know, the final version reads "self-evident."
OUR FOUNDING MEDIATORS
Adams, Franklin, and the Committee made a total of 86 changes to Jefferson's initial draft. Some, like "self-evident", involved word choices. But others were substantive.
So this is the bit where our Founding Fathers had to utilize their mediation skills:
Negotiating; Listening; Brainstorming; Problem-Solving; Compromising; Collaborating; Agreeing; Succeeding
Just consider, for instance, the passage below from Jefferson's first draft (which was deleted from the final version) and the passion required to initially pen these words--and we can only imagine--to argue forcefully for their inclusion in the intense negotiation and editorial debate that must have followed:
He [the King] 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, 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 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 on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Whether, today, any of us believe these words should or should not have been included in the Declaration, is not my point.
The self-evident truth I clearly hear across the centuries from our Founding Father-Mediators is this:
We can disagree amongst ourselves on policies and other matters. We should debate these issues. But we should always know that our fellow countrymen are not our enemies and should not be labeled, or treated, as such (after all, actual enemies of America DO exist and they are actively plotting and planning attacks upon us ... and we should never confuse the two).
In the course of resolving our political differences--as Americans all--we must resist the temptation to label one another as “the enemy”; to treat one another uncivilly; and refuse to respectfully hear one another's views. Instead, when it comes to our fellow citizens, we should heed the eloquent, timeless words Thomas Jefferson authored so long ago as they echo to us across the ages:
"...appeal to their native justice and magnanimity, and conjure them by the ties of our common kindred..."
...and in doing so ...
"mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
The preservation of this great nation depends on it.
Happy Birthday, America!
On 2 July 1776, the former American colonies of Great Britain seceded and became independent. No that's not a typo: July 2nd 1776.
Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed independence on 7 June 1776, and his Resolution was immediately seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts. The Second Continental Congress decided to delay a vote on the ﬁrst clause of Lee’s Resolution until 1 July 1776.
The vote was officially conducted on the second of July --- twelve of the thirteen colonies voted "aye", with only New York abstaining. (The New York convention joined the other twelve colonies on 9 July 1776, adopting the Resolution AND the Declaration).
Adams, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, wrote:
"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."
This is the text of Lee's RESOLUTION OF INDEPENDENCE voted upon on 2 July 1776, which was the Congress's official action with respect to the colonies' Independence (original depicted above):
Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
So what happened on July 4, 1776? Check back in a couple of days and find out how the Founding Fathers reached a "mediated settlement agreement" of the language of TJ's first draft of the DECLARATION of Independence ...