Originally published June 28, 2018. Reformatted. Contemporary commentary in blue.
Every American knows by heart how the Declaration of Independence begins.
When in the Course of Human Events…
I cannot recall what the circumstances were exactly six years ago, nor can I recall my state of mind, and I’m not inclined to go looking. But I suspect I was being facetious in claiming that every American knows and can recite, etc.
Every American can recite
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. —
Every American knows
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
Every American knows how the Declarations of Independence ends.
And for support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Sadly, however, not every American knows what’s between beginning and end. I count myself among the ignorant. Don’t misunderstand! I know every American knows it is the Grievances– the list 30 or so things King George III did or did not do that got the Colonists’ knickers in a knot. And to be sure, every American has a general sense of some: taxation without representation, keeping standing armies, abandoning trial by jury and the like.
But is a general sense enough?
… That these United States are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…
Not just are; ought to be. Not a fact of the matter; a powerful statement of what is morally right.
Is a general sense enough? I think not.
I think I’d like to take a closer look at the reasons the Founding Fathers asserted these United States ought to be free and independent.
So, in what is sure to be a haphazard adventure, with no doubt many twists and turns– e.g., who knew I’d be thinking about Hume this morning?– I’m going to study the Grievances.