Posted by: Jack Henry | July 3, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Reading the Declaration of Independence

I hope you all had fun celebrating Independence Day yesterday, July 2.

On this day in 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, "The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.—I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival."

What’s that you say? Independence Day isn’t until tomorrow?

Now that you mention it, I didn’t hear any fireworks last night. Did Adams get the date wrong? Maybe the National Archives can clear up this confusion:

"July 2, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence. John Adams, in his writings, even noted that July 2 would be remembered in the annals of American history and would be marked with fireworks and celebrations. The written Declaration of Independence was dated July 4 but wasn’t actually signed until August 2. Fifty-six delegates eventually signed the document, although all were not present on that day in August."

It turns out those July 4 picnics, barbecues, and parades aren’t marking the anniversary of America’s independence; they’re marking the anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence.

So, if you find yourself with some free time tomorrow, you can take 10 minutes to read the document we’re celebrating. The Declaration of Independence is written in an appropriately grandiose style, but it’s pretty easy for modern readers to understand.

To make it even easier, here are definitions for some of the less common words you’ll encounter. (All definitions are from Merriam-Webster.)

"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."

· unalienable: incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred

"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes…"

· prudence: caution or circumspection as to danger or risk

· transient: passing especially quickly into and out of existence

"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…"

· usurp: to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully

· evince: to display clearly; reveal

· despotism: a system of government in which the ruler has unlimited power; absolutism

"…unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only."

· relinquish: give up

· inestimable: too valuable or excellent to be measured or appreciated

· formidable: causing fear, dread, or apprehension

"…circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages…"

· perfidy: the quality or state of being faithless or disloyal; treachery

"We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity…"

· magnanimous: showing or suggesting a lofty and courageous spirit

"They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity."

· consanguinity: a close relation or connection

"…appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…"

· rectitude: moral integrity; righteousness

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
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