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!