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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence

Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence

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.
I have read these words more often than not. I have looked at them wondering what the Author meant by them. What was he thinking about when these words were put together in his head and scribed on to the parchment that is now our Declaration of Independence. You can hear the frustration in his words. You can see the absolution in the ink and smell the fear on the parchment as he sits at his desk scribing what will be the foundation for one of the greatest countries in the world.
Although I know there many rewrites or revisions to the Declaration of Independence I think that fundamentally the original words remained unchanged. Our Founding Fathers were upset, outraged for that matter, at the King of England and felt it no longer worked for them. They felt that they had the right to decide their own form of government and that when an existing government no longer has the citizen’s interest in mind or can no longer work cohesively to serve those it governs it becomes not only necessary but a fundamental responsibility to abolish it for our future generations.
After reading this ask yourself what would you be thinking if you were asked to write the greatest document in the History of this Nation? How would you feel and what would you say? More importantly would you willing to even write this knowing that if you were caught you would be brutally killed for treason?
As in 1776 our government now longer has the people’s interest at heart. The only interest it has is what is on their own political agenda. The parties can no longer work together and even within the parties there is contempt and mistrust. Our Government has forgotten that we the people give it the power it holds and that we people have the right to remove it and if necessary abolish it completely.
For the next few minutes let’s assume you are writing a new Declaration of Independence that will separate us from our current Government and that by writing this you know that you will be branded as a trader, a fanatic, a lunatic or an extremist but you know in your heart that the time to dissolve the government has not only come but it has past And that a new Government must take its place. By writing this document you are declaring war on Washington D.C. and that thousands of lives will be lost in support of what you are about to write.
Are you strong enough to do it?
There, in the dark of night in a room full of papers, books, and personal objects sits Thomas Jefferson at this desk which is no bigger than the top of a modern stove thinking about what he wants to say. A single lit candle flickers on his desk as a light breeze comes through an open window. The full moon is just beginning to rise and he can see almost every detail in the street from its shimmering light.
Jefferson is renting the second floor of the Graff House located on 7th street in Philadelphia just four miles from what will be known as Independence Hall. The street below is quite and tranquil. Jefferson welcomes the silence as he reviews his original drafts for the most important document he will ever write.
It has been just short of a month since Congress appointed him as Chairman of a committee that would draft a declaration. The five panel committee consisted of Ben Franklin from Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, Robert Livingston from New York and John Adams from Massachusetts. Over the course of these past short weeks Jefferson has written several drafts. The original version had more than eighty changes to it. Tonight, Jefferson will either accept or reject these suggestions and draft the final version of the United States Declaration of Independence.
He leans forward and dips his quill into the ink well containing a mixture of fermented oak galls and ferrous sulfate. The mixture is commonly referred to as “iron gall ink.” There in front of him is blank piece of parchment measuring 24 ½" by 29 ¾.“Made from animal skin Jefferson purchased it a few days ago from a local vendor. He inspects it one more time and then predetermines the margins in his mind.
It is July 3rd, 1776.
Jefferson begins:
IN CONGRESS,
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the course of human rights, 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.
He stops and dips his quill once more into the well and gently taps the tip of it removing any excess ink from it. He purposely leaves the date blank and decides to insert it once approved by Congress. He then looks at the document and begins to read the words he just wrote. Is that what he wanted to say? Do these words encompass all his thoughts and aspirations he wanted to convey in this opening paragraph? "Yes” he determines and begins his thoughts for the next paragraph.
Jefferson wants to make sure that what he is thinking is clear and concise. He’s not looking for eloquence but rather a statement that is damning to the English monarchy. A document that strikes at the heart of the British throne telling the King that this new Country, full of miscreant’s, farmers, beggar’s and outcast’s with little back ground in military and political affairs is ready to Govern themselves and that they have the right to bestowed upon them by their creator.
Jefferson continues:
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.
He pauses and reads what he just wrote making sure it captures his thoughts just right. “Yes” he whispers to himself. It’s now late into the evening and all his servants are long asleep. It’s just him, his thoughts, a poorly lit room, a piece of parchment and a well-worn quill. Little does he know that this will be the most important document in the history of this new nation. Little does he know that this new Nation that he and his brothers are about to declare independent will be the greatest and most powerful country the world has ever known. Little does he know that the words he know writes will inspire men and women for centuries to come and cost countless lives to ensure its integrity and perseverance, its meaning and most importantly its ability drive men and women to freedom and equality.
Jefferson begins to think hard now. In order to justify their position they must be willing to understand and state that if at any time a government doesn’t work that it is the right and the responsibility of the people to abolish it. Otherwise what he and his constituents are attempting to do would not hold merit.
Jefferson continues:
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.
The words are beginning to flow from his mind. His hand is beginning to write faster than his thoughts and he is careful to slow down and not miss a word. He constantly re-reads his text making sure that his grammar and flow are not just good but perfect. He is after all writing his own obituary if he were ever caught so it must be worth it.
Jefferson continues:
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.
Jefferson rests for a moment. He is only 33 years old but his hand aches and is beginning to cramp. It’s very late now. Dawn is approaching and the candle is getting low. He decides to read it one last time, this time very slowly and with due diligence on each word he has scribed.
Satisfied Jefferson lays the quill next to the ink well and sits back his chair. It creeks as his weight is distributed and he closes his eyes for a moment. His pulse is racing with anticipation and fear. If this document were to get into the wrong hands or found in his possession by those still loyal to the crown it would mean certain death for not only him but his fellow delegates. He must be careful.
He rubs his eyes and leans forward to review the document one more time. He stares at with great pride. Like a Father looking at his child for the first time he smiles with inspirational content. He reaches across the desk over a few stacked books and grabs his original version. Notes from Franklin and Adams and others are scribbled in the margins. He turns the document to right and reads one of Franklin’s suggestions. He smiles as he recalls how adamant Franklin was in ensuring that the facts are clearly stated so that King George understands their contempt. The man stood no more than five feet – nine inches but when he spoke he towered even over Jefferson’s six foot-two frame.
Jefferson continues:
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.
Jefferson lifts his pen from the paper and gently rubs his eyes. They are tired and strained from the poorly lit room. He takes a deep breath and reviews the original draft once more focusing on Franklin’s comments making sure that his suggestions are well covered. After reading them he returns to document that lay in front of him and reads what he just drafted. At its conclusion he is satisfied with and is assured that both Franklin and Adams will be pleased it.
He lays the pen next to the parchment paper and slowly pulls himself up out of the wooden chair. The floor boards creek as he puts his full weight down on them and uses the back of knees to gently push the chair back. He turns and walks over to dresser chest and poor’s himself a glass of water. A carafe half full of wine is sitting next to the pitcher and for a brief moment he ponders pouring that instead. “No! There will be time for that later” he says to himself. He drinks down the water in one sitting and then poor’s another. This one he will sip slowly.
Jefferson takes a few steps towards the open window and looks out at the quite street. He glances at the grandfather clock to his left and it reads half past 2 in the morning. The difficult part is over. What remains is a list of reasons that were provided to him from the committee and delegates so it’s just a matter of transcribing them onto the parchment now. Then he will need to write the summary declaring their intentions to the King. His eyes are tired but it will still be a few more hours before he can close them for the night.
Still staring out the window, he begins to think about tomorrows events. He will stand before approximately 50 delegates and read the words that he is now writing to them. Richard Henry Lee’s motion to become a free and independent country was voted on two days prior. Twelve of thirteen colonies favoring it and forever passing the motion. Only the state of New York abstained. A new Nation was born.
Over the course of these past two days the delegates have bickered, debated and negotiated what should be included in the declaration and with all final suggestions agreed upon this very night, just a few short hours ago, Jefferson was task to write the final version. All that remains is for Congress to officially adopt in tomorrow’s congressional meeting. After that a final copy would be drafted in clear hand and then signed by those state delegates already granted authority to sign. For those who would need approval form their states they would wait to sign it until such permission was given. Jefferson calculated in his mind that this might take another month before all delegates have signed it. A few years later during the war someone would write on the back of the document “Original Declaration of Independence dated July 4th, 1776” to ensure that it would not be mixed up or confused with so many other copies that must be produced. That writer’s identity would remain a mystery forever.
Tomorrow however, if adopted, the document would have to be reproduced several times. Each of the thirteen colonies would receive a copy and several others would be sent to newspapers, local business and officials as well as the Commanders in the Continental Army. Although Jefferson and the five member committee would oversee this task, it would be the responsibility John Dunlap to print these reproductions. Little did Jefferson know that these copies would later be called the “Dunlap Broadsides.”
It was time to finish. Jefferson took another deep breath engulfing the warm summer air fully into his lungs and slowly giving it back to the night. He turned around and walked back to his chair. Turning it slightly to the side he stepped forward and sat down. The chair was still warm and felt all too familiar. Grabbing the arm rails he lifted his body and the chair at the same time and slid both closer to the table.
He stared at the document for a moment admiring its words and its purpose before picking up the quill and dipping it into the ink once more. Reaching for yet another draft that contained more than a few edits, he lifted it from the table and began to read a few words at time and then transposed them onto the new document.
Jefferson continued:
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 harrass 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 benefits 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.
Jefferson once again set his quill down on the table and allowed the ink to dry. After a few moments he picked up the document and checked the margins to ensure the text was straight. Once satisfied he picked up the half full glass of water and emptied the contents. He then slid the chair back and stood over the document looking down at it from a different view admiring it once again for its content, its words and most of all its purpose. For too long the Colonist have been mistreated unfairly by England and although their cries and pleas have been loud they have only been answered by more punishment. More taxes. More murders. “Yes,” Jefferson thought to himself, “it was time.”
With a full glass of water Jefferson walked back to the table and sat down to write the final paragraphs. These would summarize the above statements with a final declaration at the end stating its intention.
Jefferson wondered what the King would do when he read it. Dismiss it maybe? Become so outrage that he would tear it up and order more British forces to the new world? Or would he simply laugh at the notion that these outcasts could govern themselves and send a small force to squash this petty uprising and dismantle the congress and its members.
Then Jefferson asked himself that very question. “Are we ready to govern ourselves or better yet, can we govern ourselves?” After a long and deep thought Jefferson came to the same conclusion everyone else had. “It’s better than what we are doing now.”
Now filled vigor he picked up the quill once. He paused and stared at it for moment realizing that the next time he set it down, The Declaration of Independence would be completed. He wondered how long it would survive and how many people would read it. With the final swipes of his hand and this quill a new nation will be born.
Many of the delegates hoped that with this document Great Britain would withdraw its troops and honor its purpose by allowing these thirteen colonies to be a free and independent nation and that would be the end of it. But Jefferson knew better. England would not walk away easily and if these thirteen colonies were to become a new nation free of Great Britain they would have to fight for it. Store keepers, farmers, traders, ship builders, black smiths, cooks, accountants…everyone old enough to bear arms would have to fight for their freedom. Thousands of men, women and children would pay the ultimate sacrifice so that future generations will be free of the tyrannical King that sits high on his throne across the vast blue ocean. Cities would burn and the mangled bodies of the dead would lay rotting in the streets in full view of the innocence. Wars were always fought in other lands or in different places but this war yet to come would be fought in their towns, in their cities and the backyards of their homes. People who only heard stories of war would become witness to it and see it unfold before their very eyes. Children would grow up without a father or a sibling or even their entire family all for the causes that are now written upon this parchment…in Jefferson’s own hand.
He felt the sweat roll down his forehead and his cheek bones. The air was warm this summer night but the thought of what was to come made him apprehensive and scared for those families that will give the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.
He thought of a child born too young to remember the war only knowing that their father is gone would someday ask him if it was worth it. What would he say in return? Jefferson thought long and hard on this. He was picturing a little girl in a light green dress laced with gold and silver standing before him looking up. “Well? Was it worth it” she would ask him again. A slight breeze from the window came in and cooled his clammy skin and he awoke from his thoughts. He immediately took a deep breath and exhaled it quickly as if it would cleanse his conscience. Still staring at the quill he pictured himself looking down at the girl and simply replying “Yes. This is your nation now and you can make it whatever you want”
With this purpose and hope Jefferson felt the guilt fade away and the rush of excitement filled its void. He quickly dipped his quill and with a new sense of vigor he drew his attention back the document.
Jefferson summarizes:
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 Brittish 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.
Jefferson pauses for just a moment and decides to write this last paragraph with bold intentions. He wants the King of England to know what this document is intended for and to be sure there is no confusion in its meaning.
Jefferson concludes:
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.
Jefferson for the last time lays his quill down and looks over the single page document in all its glory. “It is complete” he mutters and waits for the last bit of ink to dry before standing up and carefully rolling the 24 ½" by 29 ¾" parchment up. A ribbon from his daughter Patsy hair is lying on a chest a few feet away. Jefferson walks over to it and picks it up between his index and middle finger and examines it. Its light blue and white lace lining the sides of the shimmering silk. He pulls it to his nose and smells the scent of his daughter on it. He closes his eyes and whispers, “For her freedom” and then carefully wraps it around the scroll and gently slips the knot down tight to the parchment paper. He lifts it to eye level with his arms outstretched and his hands on each end in admiration. This single piece paper is the making of a new nation. A new nation called United States of America. This thought created a slight smirk of satisfaction in Jefferson wide mouth.
He looks around seeking a safe place to hide it and eventually decides on the grandfather clock behind him. He opens the solid hickory door and places the document gently inside it. He then closes it and locks it with a key. Normally the key would remain in the keyhole but for now Jefferson will keep it on his person for safe keeping. He looks at the clock and through tired eyes he reads it at a quarter past four in the morning.
It was July 4th, 1776.
He would only get a few hours' sleep before he had to be at the Colonial Legislature building a few miles away. Normally with a full night’s sleep it would take him approximately 15 minutes to walk the 4 miles to Chestnut Street. Tomorrow he would allow for at least 30 minutes.
Jefferson turns and steps back to the desk and gently blows out the candle. He looks out the open window once more and can see the full moon, now the only source of light in the room, setting in the western sky just below the tree line. He ponders what he has written and the implications it will endorse and most importantly the lives it will cost. Still gazing out the window he pictures a new nation, built on its own accord and one that gives equality to all men and freedom from all persecution. Jefferson then gently says out loud in a whisper only meant for his ears.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Jefferson knows that there will be much blood in the coming years. The document that he has written with his own hand this very night will insure that. He turns and exits the room closing the door behind him.
This is a new day for America. The thirteen United States of America’s Declaration of Independence is safely secured inside a grandfather clock hidden away from the world.
For now.

Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence

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.
I have read these words more often than not. I have looked at them wondering what the Author meant by them. What was he thinking about when these words were put together in his head and scribed on to the parchment that is now our Declaration of Independence. You can hear the frustration in his words. You can see the absolution in the ink and smell the fear on the parchment as he sits at his desk scribing what will be the foundation for one of the greatest countries in the world.
Although I know there many rewrites or revisions to the Declaration of Independence I think that fundamentally the original words remained unchanged. Our Founding Fathers were upset, outraged for that matter, at the King of England and felt it no longer worked for them. They felt that they had the right to decide their own form of government and that when an existing government no longer has the citizen’s interest in mind or can no longer work cohesively to serve those it governs it becomes not only necessary but a fundamental responsibility to abolish it for our future generations.
After reading this ask yourself what would you be thinking if you were asked to write the greatest document in the History of this Nation? How would you feel and what would you say? More importantly would you willing to even write this knowing that if you were caught you would be brutally killed for treason?
As in 1776 our government now longer has the people’s interest at heart. The only interest it has is what is on their own political agenda. The parties can no longer work together and even within the parties there is contempt and mistrust. Our Government has forgotten that we the people give it the power it holds and that we people have the right to remove it and if necessary abolish it completely.
For the next few minutes let’s assume you are writing a new Declaration of Independence that will separate us from our current Government and that by writing this you know that you will be branded as a trader, a fanatic, a lunatic or an extremist but you know in your heart that the time to dissolve the government has not only come but it has past And that a new Government must take its place. By writing this document you are declaring war on Washington D.C. and that thousands of lives will be lost in support of what you are about to write.
Are you strong enough to do it?
There, in the dark of night in a room full of papers, books, and personal objects sits Thomas Jefferson at this desk which is no bigger than the top of a modern stove thinking about what he wants to say. A single lit candle flickers on his desk as a light breeze comes through an open window. The full moon is just beginning to rise and he can see almost every detail in the street from its shimmering light.
Jefferson is renting the second floor of the Graff House located on 7th street in Philadelphia just four miles from what will be known as Independence Hall. The street below is quite and tranquil. Jefferson welcomes the silence as he reviews his original drafts for the most important document he will ever write.
It has been just short of a month since Congress appointed him as Chairman of a committee that would draft a declaration. The five panel committee consisted of Ben Franklin from Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, Robert Livingston from New York and John Adams from Massachusetts. Over the course of these past short weeks Jefferson has written several drafts. The original version had more than eighty changes to it. Tonight, Jefferson will either accept or reject these suggestions and draft the final version of the United States Declaration of Independence.
He leans forward and dips his quill into the ink well containing a mixture of fermented oak galls and ferrous sulfate. The mixture is commonly referred to as “iron gall ink.” There in front of him is blank piece of parchment measuring 24 ½" by 29 ¾.“Made from animal skin Jefferson purchased it a few days ago from a local vendor. He inspects it one more time and then predetermines the margins in his mind.
It is July 3rd, 1776.
Jefferson begins:
IN CONGRESS,
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the course of human rights, 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.
He stops and dips his quill once more into the well and gently taps the tip of it removing any excess ink from it. He purposely leaves the date blank and decides to insert it once approved by Congress. He then looks at the document and begins to read the words he just wrote. Is that what he wanted to say? Do these words encompass all his thoughts and aspirations he wanted to convey in this opening paragraph? "Yes” he determines and begins his thoughts for the next paragraph.
Jefferson wants to make sure that what he is thinking is clear and concise. He’s not looking for eloquence but rather a statement that is damning to the English monarchy. A document that strikes at the heart of the British throne telling the King that this new Country, full of miscreant’s, farmers, beggar’s and outcast’s with little back ground in military and political affairs is ready to Govern themselves and that they have the right to bestowed upon them by their creator.
Jefferson continues:
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.
He pauses and reads what he just wrote making sure it captures his thoughts just right. “Yes” he whispers to himself. It’s now late into the evening and all his servants are long asleep. It’s just him, his thoughts, a poorly lit room, a piece of parchment and a well-worn quill. Little does he know that this will be the most important document in the history of this new nation. Little does he know that this new Nation that he and his brothers are about to declare independent will be the greatest and most powerful country the world has ever known. Little does he know that the words he know writes will inspire men and women for centuries to come and cost countless lives to ensure its integrity and perseverance, its meaning and most importantly its ability drive men and women to freedom and equality.
Jefferson begins to think hard now. In order to justify their position they must be willing to understand and state that if at any time a government doesn’t work that it is the right and the responsibility of the people to abolish it. Otherwise what he and his constituents are attempting to do would not hold merit.
Jefferson continues:
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.
The words are beginning to flow from his mind. His hand is beginning to write faster than his thoughts and he is careful to slow down and not miss a word. He constantly re-reads his text making sure that his grammar and flow are not just good but perfect. He is after all writing his own obituary if he were ever caught so it must be worth it.
Jefferson continues:
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.
Jefferson rests for a moment. He is only 33 years old but his hand aches and is beginning to cramp. It’s very late now. Dawn is approaching and the candle is getting low. He decides to read it one last time, this time very slowly and with due diligence on each word he has scribed.
Satisfied Jefferson lays the quill next to the ink well and sits back his chair. It creeks as his weight is distributed and he closes his eyes for a moment. His pulse is racing with anticipation and fear. If this document were to get into the wrong hands or found in his possession by those still loyal to the crown it would mean certain death for not only him but his fellow delegates. He must be careful.
He rubs his eyes and leans forward to review the document one more time. He stares at with great pride. Like a Father looking at his child for the first time he smiles with inspirational content. He reaches across the desk over a few stacked books and grabs his original version. Notes from Franklin and Adams and others are scribbled in the margins. He turns the document to right and reads one of Franklin’s suggestions. He smiles as he recalls how adamant Franklin was in ensuring that the facts are clearly stated so that King George understands their contempt. The man stood no more than five feet – nine inches but when he spoke he towered even over Jefferson’s six foot-two frame.
Jefferson continues:
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.
Jefferson lifts his pen from the paper and gently rubs his eyes. They are tired and strained from the poorly lit room. He takes a deep breath and reviews the original draft once more focusing on Franklin’s comments making sure that his suggestions are well covered. After reading them he returns to document that lay in front of him and reads what he just drafted. At its conclusion he is satisfied with and is assured that both Franklin and Adams will be pleased it.
He lays the pen next to the parchment paper and slowly pulls himself up out of the wooden chair. The floor boards creek as he puts his full weight down on them and uses the back of knees to gently push the chair back. He turns and walks over to dresser chest and poor’s himself a glass of water. A carafe half full of wine is sitting next to the pitcher and for a brief moment he ponders pouring that instead. “No! There will be time for that later” he says to himself. He drinks down the water in one sitting and then poor’s another. This one he will sip slowly.
Jefferson takes a few steps towards the open window and looks out at the quite street. He glances at the grandfather clock to his left and it reads half past 2 in the morning. The difficult part is over. What remains is a list of reasons that were provided to him from the committee and delegates so it’s just a matter of transcribing them onto the parchment now. Then he will need to write the summary declaring their intentions to the King. His eyes are tired but it will still be a few more hours before he can close them for the night.
Still staring out the window, he begins to think about tomorrows events. He will stand before approximately 50 delegates and read the words that he is now writing to them. Richard Henry Lee’s motion to become a free and independent country was voted on two days prior. Twelve of thirteen colonies favoring it and forever passing the motion. Only the state of New York abstained. A new Nation was born.
Over the course of these past two days the delegates have bickered, debated and negotiated what should be included in the declaration and with all final suggestions agreed upon this very night, just a few short hours ago, Jefferson was task to write the final version. All that remains is for Congress to officially adopt in tomorrow’s congressional meeting. After that a final copy would be drafted in clear hand and then signed by those state delegates already granted authority to sign. For those who would need approval form their states they would wait to sign it until such permission was given. Jefferson calculated in his mind that this might take another month before all delegates have signed it. A few years later during the war someone would write on the back of the document “Original Declaration of Independence dated July 4th, 1776” to ensure that it would not be mixed up or confused with so many other copies that must be produced. That writer’s identity would remain a mystery forever.
Tomorrow however, if adopted, the document would have to be reproduced several times. Each of the thirteen colonies would receive a copy and several others would be sent to newspapers, local business and officials as well as the Commanders in the Continental Army. Although Jefferson and the five member committee would oversee this task, it would be the responsibility John Dunlap to print these reproductions. Little did Jefferson know that these copies would later be called the “Dunlap Broadsides.”
It was time to finish. Jefferson took another deep breath engulfing the warm summer air fully into his lungs and slowly giving it back to the night. He turned around and walked back to his chair. Turning it slightly to the side he stepped forward and sat down. The chair was still warm and felt all too familiar. Grabbing the arm rails he lifted his body and the chair at the same time and slid both closer to the table.
He stared at the document for a moment admiring its words and its purpose before picking up the quill and dipping it into the ink once more. Reaching for yet another draft that contained more than a few edits, he lifted it from the table and began to read a few words at time and then transposed them onto the new document.
Jefferson continued:
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 harrass 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 benefits 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.
Jefferson once again set his quill down on the table and allowed the ink to dry. After a few moments he picked up the document and checked the margins to ensure the text was straight. Once satisfied he picked up the half full glass of water and emptied the contents. He then slid the chair back and stood over the document looking down at it from a different view admiring it once again for its content, its words and most of all its purpose. For too long the Colonist have been mistreated unfairly by England and although their cries and pleas have been loud they have only been answered by more punishment. More taxes. More murders. “Yes,” Jefferson thought to himself, “it was time.”
With a full glass of water Jefferson walked back to the table and sat down to write the final paragraphs. These would summarize the above statements with a final declaration at the end stating its intention.
Jefferson wondered what the King would do when he read it. Dismiss it maybe? Become so outrage that he would tear it up and order more British forces to the new world? Or would he simply laugh at the notion that these outcasts could govern themselves and send a small force to squash this petty uprising and dismantle the congress and its members.
Then Jefferson asked himself that very question. “Are we ready to govern ourselves or better yet, can we govern ourselves?” After a long and deep thought Jefferson came to the same conclusion everyone else had. “It’s better than what we are doing now.”
Now filled vigor he picked up the quill once. He paused and stared at it for moment realizing that the next time he set it down, The Declaration of Independence would be completed. He wondered how long it would survive and how many people would read it. With the final swipes of his hand and this quill a new nation will be born.
Many of the delegates hoped that with this document Great Britain would withdraw its troops and honor its purpose by allowing these thirteen colonies to be a free and independent nation and that would be the end of it. But Jefferson knew better. England would not walk away easily and if these thirteen colonies were to become a new nation free of Great Britain they would have to fight for it. Store keepers, farmers, traders, ship builders, black smiths, cooks, accountants…everyone old enough to bear arms would have to fight for their freedom. Thousands of men, women and children would pay the ultimate sacrifice so that future generations will be free of the tyrannical King that sits high on his throne across the vast blue ocean. Cities would burn and the mangled bodies of the dead would lay rotting in the streets in full view of the innocence. Wars were always fought in other lands or in different places but this war yet to come would be fought in their towns, in their cities and the backyards of their homes. People who only heard stories of war would become witness to it and see it unfold before their very eyes. Children would grow up without a father or a sibling or even their entire family all for the causes that are now written upon this parchment…in Jefferson’s own hand.
He felt the sweat roll down his forehead and his cheek bones. The air was warm this summer night but the thought of what was to come made him apprehensive and scared for those families that will give the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.
He thought of a child born too young to remember the war only knowing that their father is gone would someday ask him if it was worth it. What would he say in return? Jefferson thought long and hard on this. He was picturing a little girl in a light green dress laced with gold and silver standing before him looking up. “Well? Was it worth it” she would ask him again. A slight breeze from the window came in and cooled his clammy skin and he awoke from his thoughts. He immediately took a deep breath and exhaled it quickly as if it would cleanse his conscience. Still staring at the quill he pictured himself looking down at the girl and simply replying “Yes. This is your nation now and you can make it whatever you want”
With this purpose and hope Jefferson felt the guilt fade away and the rush of excitement filled its void. He quickly dipped his quill and with a new sense of vigor he drew his attention back the document.
Jefferson summarizes:
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 Brittish 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.
Jefferson pauses for just a moment and decides to write this last paragraph with bold intentions. He wants the King of England to know what this document is intended for and to be sure there is no confusion in its meaning.
Jefferson concludes:
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.
Jefferson for the last time lays his quill down and looks over the single page document in all its glory. “It is complete” he mutters and waits for the last bit of ink to dry before standing up and carefully rolling the 24 ½" by 29 ¾" parchment up. A ribbon from his daughter Patsy hair is lying on a chest a few feet away. Jefferson walks over to it and picks it up between his index and middle finger and examines it. Its light blue and white lace lining the sides of the shimmering silk. He pulls it to his nose and smells the scent of his daughter on it. He closes his eyes and whispers, “For her freedom” and then carefully wraps it around the scroll and gently slips the knot down tight to the parchment paper. He lifts it to eye level with his arms outstretched and his hands on each end in admiration. This single piece paper is the making of a new nation. A new nation called United States of America. This thought created a slight smirk of satisfaction in Jefferson wide mouth.
He looks around seeking a safe place to hide it and eventually decides on the grandfather clock behind him. He opens the solid hickory door and places the document gently inside it. He then closes it and locks it with a key. Normally the key would remain in the keyhole but for now Jefferson will keep it on his person for safe keeping. He looks at the clock and through tired eyes he reads it at a quarter past four in the morning.
It was July 4th, 1776.
He would only get a few hours' sleep before he had to be at the Colonial Legislature building a few miles away. Normally with a full night’s sleep it would take him approximately 15 minutes to walk the 4 miles to Chestnut Street. Tomorrow he would allow for at least 30 minutes.
Jefferson turns and steps back to the desk and gently blows out the candle. He looks out the open window once more and can see the full moon, now the only source of light in the room, setting in the western sky just below the tree line. He ponders what he has written and the implications it will endorse and most importantly the lives it will cost. Still gazing out the window he pictures a new nation, built on its own accord and one that gives equality to all men and freedom from all persecution. Jefferson then gently says out loud in a whisper only meant for his ears.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Jefferson knows that there will be much blood in the coming years. The document that he has written with his own hand this very night will insure that. He turns and exits the room closing the door behind him.
This is a new day for America. The thirteen United States of America’s Declaration of Independence is safely secured inside a grandfather clock hidden away from the world.
For now.


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