04 July 2008

One stroke of this pen

Upon arriving in Passamaquody for the 4th of July Cookout, I found myself just in time for a reenactment of the American Adventure reenactment of a conversation between Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson about the creation of the Declaration of Independence. The costumes were fantastic, even if the dialogue was a heavy on the nautical innuendos. Since this is a family friendly cookout, I decided I would include the original American Adventure dialogue here, rather than the reworked script.

Ben Franklin: Good evening, Mr. Jefferson. Have you finished the new draft yet?
Thomas Jefferson: Those are new drafts all over the floor Dr. Franklin. It seems that one stroke of this pen, brings two changes from Congress. I told you John Adams should have written this.
Ben Franklin: Oh, by his own admission, you can write circles around him.
Thomas Jefferson: Mr. Adams has not been prisoner in this loft for 17 days. I shall continue tomorrow.
Ben Franklin: You must continue now! Thomas, it is difficult to make 13 clocks chime at the same time, but we must carefully justify separation.
Thomas Jefferson: Dr. Franklin, while you slept soundly through the meeting this afternoon, we did manage to justify separation.
Thomas Jefferson: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…

The two pieces of this interaction that intriguing my inner newsman were the “by his (John Adams) own admission, you can write circles around him” and “new drafts all over the floor.” With these thoughts floating around in my brain, I headed over to the Passamaquoddy Library (that’s a picture of the library in the distance) for some good, old fashioned research.

By his own admission

In 1822 John Adams wrote a letter to Timothy Pickering, whose resume included the positions of U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Secretary of War, Secretary of State (including John Adams), and Postmaster General, in response to Pickering question of why Adams had not authored the Declaration of Independence. In his response, Adams stated, “The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, 'I will not,' 'You should do it.' 'Oh! no.' 'Why will you not? You ought to do it.' 'I will not.' 'Why?' 'Reasons enough.' 'What can be your reasons?' 'Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.' 'Well,' said Jefferson, 'if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.' 'Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.'”

While the Declaration of Independence seemed to unite the two, Jefferson and Adams would continually be at odds with one another for the remainder of their lives. Even as they found a grudging esteem for each other in their later years, Adams would still proclaim, “I will outlive Jefferson.”

This, as fate would have it, would prove immaterial as, on July 4th, 1826, fifty years to the day that the country had been founded, both men would depart this world.

All over the floor

The annals of the Passamaquoddy Library proved vast. Aside from letters involving the Continental Congress, a copy of the Book of Secrets, and photographs of a wooly beast that lives in the Himalayas, the stacks also included drafts of some of the most fantastic documents and books ever written. Deep within the restricted section I found this copy of a draft of the Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson. An excerpt, corresponding to the reenactment, is presented below, for the full text, I recommend The Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be ^sacred & undeniable; that all Men
they are endowed by their creator with
are created equal & independent; that ^from that equal creation they
equal rights, some of which are rights; that these
derive in rights inherent & inalienable ^ among ^which are the
preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness;

Before I leave this library (George, you really should visit this place soon, it is fantastic!) and head out into the tempting smells, sounds, and sights of Passamaquoddy, for comparison to the draft above and as on this day, more than any other, we should take pause to remember where we have come from and what we can do together, I present to you the Declaration of Independence, as it was sign on this day in 1776:
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, 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; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.


The Viewliner Limited said...

Have a great 4th Ryan. Thanks for all the great pics and information, Richard.

Unknown said...

Great research, Ryan!

Did your wife help with this one?


Jeff W said...

Wow that was a great post Ryan.