I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think about college students having to read his rough-draft of the Declaration of Independence. First drafts are rather embarrassing, you know. Since I am tired of “Fact Checking Muslim Demographics” being my front-page post and yet have not had a chance to finish my other articles, I’ll post a snippet of some things I’ve been studying in college. Actually, perhaps I should do this more often. It will give me an extra academic excuse to blog.
Jefferson’s rough draft was more blunt than the final version. My professor didn’t make any specific comment on it; the reading was merely part of the required supplementary primary documents that would be covered in an exam. I actually had the opportunity to cover the subject of the revision of the Declaration of Independence more in depth in World Views of the Western World Year II (when I have more time I’ll get into the philosophical aspects of the revision…). Thomas Jefferson was a young (33 year-old), red-headed and impulsive writer who was a little insulted by the elder gentlemen making so many refining suggestions. Benjamin Franklin soothed his temper by telling him a funny story about a hat merchant whose friends kept insisting he whittle down his fancy store advertisement until it said nothing but “Hats”.
However, I can imagine that Jefferson would later blush at some of the drama he included in his rough draft. I won’t feel so bad now when I go overboard in an article.
Here are some of my favorite Jefferson-uncensored quotes from the “Original Rough Draught” (see if you notice the differences):
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independent station to which the laws of nature & 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 change.
We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness…
…He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & 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 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 upon 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…
…in every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered 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 people who mean to be free. future ages will scarce believe that the hardiness of one man, adventured within the short comnpass of 12 years only, on so many acts of tyranny without a mask, over a people fostered & fixed in principles of liberty…
…they too have been deaf to the voice of justice & of consanguinity, & when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free election re-established them in power. at this very time too they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to invade & deluge us in blood. these facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren. we must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and to hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends, we might have been a free & a great people together; but a communication of grandeur & of freedom it seems is below their dignity. be it so, since they will have it: the road to glory & happiness is open to us to; we will climb it in a separate state, and acquiesce in the necessity which pronounces our everlasting Adieu!
…to prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood…
And for the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, & our sacred honour.
It’s a shame that the Founders didn’t nip slavery in the bud from the beginning. At the time it was morally frowned upon in the North and South, but economic incentives kept it legal. In territories that were yet unsettled, the Continental Congress outlawed slavery easily from the beginning in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 (before the Constitution was written). But in areas where slavery had become an incentive to compete with the produce output of the world markets, outlawing such a thing was not so easy and a compromise resulted.
While I was searching for the portrait of Thomas Jefferson, this blog post came up. I’m not familiar with the author, but the article is really quite hilarious! Jefferson in his own words, mind you. It sounds quite imaginable, actually.
Post Scriptum – Read more about the Declaration of Independence and the rough draft here.