Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

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Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:33 pm

Jefferson’s energy in the cause of liberty, his dedication to the cause of human rights, and his facility with language through his pen placed him in, often at the head of, over 30 committees in the Continental Congress. Yet his most significant work was as a member of the five-man committee appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. On June 9, 1776, Congress appointed Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman to draft the document.

With so much occurring in the Congress and most congressmen stretched to their limit, Jefferson was given the task of drafting the document. Why? John Adams recalled his conversation with Jefferson: “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.” Jefferson called into question Adams’ flattering account. “Mr. Adams [sic] memory has led him into unquestionable error. … The committee of 5 met, no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught.”

Thus, Jefferson shut himself in the second floor of a three-story brick house at Seventh and Market Streets in Philadelphia, and worked on the project from June 11 to June 28. When finished with his initial draft, he handed a copy to Franklin and Adams for their corrections. The two made merely “verbal” alterations and the Continental Congress received the fair copy on June 28 and made substantial edits, thereby reducing the document by some one-quarter in length. The most notable omission was a long passage, penned by Jefferson, on the evils of slavery.

Because Jefferson was part of a five-man committee and because the fair copy had to go through the criticisms and edits of the Congress, it is fair to ask whether Jefferson can be called the author of the document.

Pauline Maier, in her American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, warns against ascription of authorship to Jefferson. Jefferson was “no Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God. He was part of a five-man committee, which oversaw the project. Also Congress revised the document before its publication. Thus, “it was an act of group editing.”

She warns against regarding the document as a “sacred text” and against championing Jefferson as “the father of all moral principles.” She sums that Jefferson was the “most overrated person in American history.”

More recently, Danielle Allen, in Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, also argues against ascription of authorship to Jefferson. The Declaration was a democratic work that was constructed by a committee and was intended for a global audience. The document was merely begun by Jefferson, as his original draft was reviewed by the four other members of the original committee, by 51 other members of Continental Congress, and by the clerk Matlack, who “textured the text with his formal calligraphy.” Thus, there was the influence of “the words and voices of all those people who participated in conversation with Jefferson, Adams, Lee, and Mason.” In addition, one must not forget the conversations of committee members with others within and without the Congress. If we follow Allen’s line of reasoning, then it seems that nearly everyone with democratic leanings had a hand in penning the document. Yet with due consideration for Jefferson’s meaty role in birthing the document, she sums: “The monumental achievement of Thomas Jefferson is, ultimately to have produced a first draft—and a general argumentative structure—that, through its philosophical integrity and unquestionable brilliance, could survive such intense committee work and bear this much demand for agreement.”

The document was certainly not deemed a sacred text, though it is now considered to be one, when it received the final approbation of the Congress on July 4. As Maier said, its declaration of independence was post factum: Independence had formally been declared on July 2, 1776, and the document for years fell into relative obscurity in the states, though its effect in Europe was immediate and seismic. Jefferson himself was astonished by the significance of the document decades after it was penned. To Dr. James Mease (26 Sept. 1825), he wrote of “the sacred attachments of our fellow citizens to the event of which the paper of July 4th, 1776, was but the declaration, the genuine effusion of the soul of our country at that time. Small things may, perhaps, like the relics of saints, help to nourish our devotion to this holy bond of our Union, and keep it longer alive and warm in our affections.”

While he wrote the document, Jefferson was clear that his chief aim, as the letter to Mease shows, was not originality of sentiment, but to capture the spirit of the colonists at the time. That sentiment he expressed more plainly in an earlier letter to Henry Lee (8 May 1825): “When forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress, an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our justification. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c.”

In writing the Declaration, Jefferson aimed to encapsulate the “expression of the American mind” at the time of its composition. Originality was not an aim. The merit of the document, he concedes, was its ability capture the “harmonizing sentiments of the day.” That the document has today taken on the status of a holy relic strongly suggests that Jefferson perfectly captured those sentiments.

The document in many respects is merely a formal reconstruction of Jefferson’s Summary View of the Rights of British America—with excision of certain aspects and fleshing out others in a tone less angry and more measured. I examine Jefferson’s fair copy.

First, the first paragraph is Jefferson’s opening salvo. “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.” That salvo is an appeal to the good judgment of mankind for the causes of the colonists’ push for separation from England.

Secondly and most famously, he then limns several self-evident truths: that all men are created “equal & independent”; that “from that equal creation,” all have the rights “to the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness”; that governments, deriving their “just powers from the consent of the governed,” are instituted to secure such rights; and that the people have a right to abolish any government which “becomes destructive of these ends” and to institute a new government, by “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.”

Next, Jefferson lists 18 grievances—“Facts … submitted to a candid world”—which aim to show King George III’s behavior, when it comes to ignoring their rights, to be tyrannical and of consistent purpose in ignoring colonists’ rights. Many are taken from his Summary View.

Finally, there is the ending paragraph, which is a normative argument for colonial separation and self-government. “These United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States … [and] are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown.”

Thus, the Declaration is a lengthy argument—given in gist mostly in the second paragraph. All people are created equal. All people are endowed with certain rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) to enable them to live peaceably among each other in a social setting. Governmental power is derived from the consent of the people. The main task of a government is to secure its citizens’ rights. When any government fails to secure its citizens’ rights, the citizens have a right to abolish it and institute a new government. King George III has abusively violated the British colonists’ rights (18 grievances). So, the colonists have a right to form their own government in keeping with their own notions of their safety and happiness.

The influence of John Locke and George Mason is apparent, but Jefferson was well read in the liberal/utopian literature of his time—e.g., More’s Utopia, Mercier’s The Year 2440, Condorcet’s History, Harrington’s Oceana, Charron’s On Wisdom, and Volney’s Ruins—and so it is vain to look too much at the influence of any one person on the document.

Yet there is reason to believe that in writing the document, Jefferson merely appealed to the skeleton of his own newly forming political philosophy, which would get fleshed out in certain letters on rebellion and revolution during his tenure in France, in his First Inaugural Address as president, and in certain letters later in life—the year 1816 is especially revelatory—on the notion of sound republican government. Jefferson wrote to William Fleming, just prior to ratification of the Declaration (1 July 1776): “If any doubt has arisen as to me, my country will have my political creed in the form of a ‘Declaration &c.’ which I was lately directed to draw. This will give decisive proof that my own sentiment concurred with the vote they instructed us to give.” There can be no stronger statement of ownership by Thomas Jefferson.


https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/169462

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:03 pm

historynews wrote:Because Jefferson was part of a five-man committee and because the fair copy had to go through the criticisms and edits of the Congress, it is fair to ask whether Jefferson can be called the author of the document.

Meh...Jefferson wrote the prototypical first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and came around later and suggested the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments).  Really, no one has ascribed more than that to Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was a handsome Virginian...a typical southern, lazy, plantation rat, in the most populous state.  That was the most important thing to the organizers of the Revolution at the time.  The framers courted Virginians because, keep in mind, they were continually recruiting for the cause.

Washington, Madison, and 4 of the first 5 presidents were Virginians (Adams was from Massachusetts).  They were the Hollywood rat pack in their day.  Jefferson was kinda an early rock star, and you find out a lot about who was and was not when you scratch the surface.

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Thu Jul 05, 2018 6:13 pm

Someone never read the article fully did they

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:17 pm

Didge wrote:Someone never read the article fully did they

Haha...you are so into mean and evil that you didn't notice: there is no argument!

I agree.

Save...that there's nothing new here.  Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and added the Bill of Rights.  He also was the third president, and bought the Louisiana purchase--and here's you, all critical about how the US stole that land from the natives.

Jefferson's no big chuko.  Your article begins with a premise that Jefferson was bigger than he actually was:

historynews wrote:Pauline Maier, in her American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, warns against ascription of authorship to Jefferson. Jefferson was “no Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God. He was part of a five-man committee, which oversaw the project. Also Congress revised the document before its publication. Thus, “it was an act of group editing.”

No one but her is actually saying that Jefferson was so great.  No one over here thinks he's that great, compared to the others.  So, she is setting up a falsehood, in order to knock it down.  That's all I'm saying.

Did you read the article?

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:22 pm

So you actually read it properly the second time round and your first post was utterly stupid

Opps

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:55 pm

I'm the only one with consistency here.  That should tell you all you need to know.

Didge, you're so easy...  I feel compelled to help you out.  But as soon as I do, it looks like I'm lecturing you on argument form.  But here goes:

When you've just been shown to be wrong, don't persist with the same argument.  Change your surroundings...change to a different facet of your case.

'You didn't read' was a subordinate clause to 'you didn't agree'.  When the whole thing collapses, don't continue to argue the subordinate clause.  What did Einstein say:  Fook...if it don't work, try something else, dude.

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Thu Jul 05, 2018 9:06 pm

You never read the article properly in your first post, hence why you corrected yourself in the second

Try reading before you post

Simple

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:15 am

Didge wrote:You never read the article properly in your first post, hence why you corrected yourself in the second

Try reading before you post

Simple

Have we picked a little side-diversion, cause you're too outclassed to discuss Jefferson?  Perhaps you shouldn't swim in such deep waters, didge.

I know. May I suggest something on Freddy the Pig?


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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Fri Jul 06, 2018 4:27 am

So the problem here Quil is again you failed to read the article the first time, this is evident by your first post and then by your second when you did

All can see that and again you fail to admit that you did

Dishonesty at its worse

Hey ho

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by WhoseYourWolfie on Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:05 pm

Didge wrote:
So you actually read it properly the second time round and your first post was utterly stupid

Opps



Poor ol' Doddery Didger...

Stoned again !!!!



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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by eddie on Fri Jul 06, 2018 3:46 pm

Wolf, any chance you could debate without insulting the person you’re debating with?
Practically every post I’ve read of yours this morning has been pretty hostile.

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Fri Jul 06, 2018 6:31 pm

Didge, here is the thesis of the article, declared some seven (7) paragraphs in the document:

Pauline Maler wrote:“The monumental achievement of Thomas Jefferson is, ultimately to have produced a first draft—and a general argumentative structure—that, through its philosophical integrity and unquestionable brilliance, could survive such intense committee work and bear this much demand for agreement.”

Here is my first sentence of my first post:

Original Quill wrote:Jefferson wrote the prototypical first draft of the Declaration of Independence, and came around later and suggested the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments).  Really, no one has ascribed more than that to Thomas Jefferson.

If I had never studied the article, the first time, how did I have the awareness to nail the thesis?  Are you ascribing supernatural powers to me?  Is my writing so gifted, that I'm clairvoyant?

Admit it.  You plant these c&p's to pick fights with others.  You're really not interested in intellectual content at all.  Indeed, 3rd-graders in American schools are taught what this article imparts.  It's not even enlightening.

It's old news, that somehow drifts over to British shores, and someone picks it up and thinks he is really being iconoclastic and naughty.  Take a look at Jon Meacham's Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power (2012), or any of the great biographies of the founders...these points are all hashed over ad nauseum.

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Fri Jul 06, 2018 9:35 pm

You did not nail the thesis, because you went on the defensive in regards to Thomas Jefferson. Ignoring the fact the article in question was actually defending him. If you had read the article fully, you would not have made your first post so defensively. Being the fact the article already did.

Prime example of again you not admitting you jumped the gun

Frankly, I think the declaration of Independence is utterly backward

Where is the Universal rights?

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Sat Jul 07, 2018 3:29 am

Didge wrote:You did not nail the thesis, because you went on the defensive in regards to Thomas Jefferson. Ignoring the fact the article in question was actually defending him. If you had read the article fully, you would not have made your first post so defensively. Being the fact the article already did.

You are a complete incompetent.  You lie, just like Trump...you live in these petty, fabricated scenarios and pay no attention to facts.

The article was hardly defending Jefferson; you didn't read it, did you?  You certainly didn't understand it...comme d'habitude!  Rolling Eyes  It was quite non-judgmental:

Pauline Maler wrote:... the Continental Congress received the fair copy on June 28 and made substantial edits, thereby reducing the document by some one-quarter in length.

The article said only that others had input into the drafting.  We've long known that.

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Sat Jul 07, 2018 4:00 am

Original Quill wrote:
Didge wrote:You did not nail the thesis, because you went on the defensive in regards to Thomas Jefferson. Ignoring the fact the article in question was actually defending him. If you had read the article fully, you would not have made your first post so defensively. Being the fact the article already did.

You are a complete incompetent.  You lie, just like Trump...you live in these petty, fabricated scenarios and pay no attention to facts.

The article was hardly defending Jefferson; you didn't read it, did you?  You certainly didn't understand it...comme d'habitude!  Rolling Eyes  It was quite non-judgmental:

Pauline Maler wrote:... the Continental Congress received the fair copy on June 28 and made substantial edits, thereby reducing the document by some one-quarter in length.

The article said only that others had input into the drafting.  We've long known that.


So your thesis just went down the pan, being as you used one sentence to argue against the article backing Thomas

lol

You dont half make yourself look very silly when exposed

I will always be here, to continually point out your many errors

Shame you can never recognise them

Its your biggest failing

Laughing

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by WhoseYourWolfie on Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:52 pm

Didge wrote:
Original Quill wrote:

You are a complete incompetent.  You lie, just like Trump...you live in these petty, fabricated scenarios and pay no attention to facts.

The article was hardly defending Jefferson; you didn't read it, did you?  You certainly didn't understand it...comme d'habitude!  Rolling Eyes  It was quite non-judgmental:



The article said only that others had input into the drafting.  We've long known that.


So your thesis just went down the pan, being as you used one sentence to argue against the article backing Thomas

lol

You dont half make yourself look very silly when exposed

I will always be here, to continually point out your many errors

Shame you can never recognise them

Its your biggest failing

Laughing

Rolling Eyes

The Dodger's meaningless, self-contradictory, nonsensical and convoluted bragadoccio here only goes to show how badly he has lost the plot this week  !!!

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Didge on Sat Jul 07, 2018 2:57 pm

WhoseYourWolfie wrote:
Didge wrote:

So your thesis just went down the pan, being as you used one sentence to argue against the article backing Thomas

lol

You dont half make yourself look very silly when exposed

I will always be here, to continually point out your many errors

Shame you can never recognise them

Its your biggest failing

Laughing

Rolling Eyes

The Dodger's meaningless, self-contradictory, nonsensical and convoluted bragadoccio here only goes to show how badly he has lost the plot this week  !!!



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3UjnW1ZreE

Time for Footie

"Come on England"

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Re: Did Jefferson Really Write the Declaration of Independence?

Post by Original Quill on Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:35 am

What's borin' is a stupid thread, in which the progenitor has no knowledge, nor the ability to read or comprehend the subject.

Congrats, dickless...you outdid yourself.

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