The Declaration of Independence is perhaps the most masterfully written state paper of Western civilization. As Moses Coit Tyler noted almost a century ago, no assessment of it can be complete without taking into account its extraordinary merits as a work of political prose style. Although many scholars have recognized those merits, there are surprisingly few sustained studies of the stylistic artistry of the Declaration. This essay seeks to illuminate that artistry by probing the discourse microscopically -- at the level of the sentence, phrase, word, and syllable. The University of Wisconsin's Dr. Stephen E. Lucas meticulously analyzes the elegant language of the 235-year-old charter in a distillation of this comprehensive study. More on the Declaration: full transcript and ultra-high-resolution scan, a transcript and scan of Jefferson's annotated rough draft, the little-known royal rebuttal, a thorough history of the parchment itself, a peek at the archival process, a reading of the document by the people of NPR and by a group of prominent actors, H. L. Mencken's "American" translation, Slate's Twitter summaries, and a look at the fates of the 56 signers.
"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." ~ George Washington / "I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature." ~ Thomas Jefferson / "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion." ~ Abraham Lincoln / "A just government has no need for the clergy or the church." ~ James Madison / "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end... where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice." ~ John F. Kennedy / "We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers." ~ Barack Obama
WWJD (Which Words Jefferson Digested) Some Flash
The Mammoth Cheese of Cheshire was the most unusual gift ever given to a President of the United States. In the aftermath of the "Revolution of 1800", the eccentric Baptist preacher John Leland decided to celebrate the presidency of Thomas Jefferson by convincing the predominantly Baptist farmers of Cheshire, Massachusetts to create a giant 1,235-pound block of cheese as a monument to small-"r" republicanism and religious freedom. [more inside]
Those OLD states are totally 2004. I should wait until Thursday, but: If you're fed up with the idea of living in America OR Canada, consider moving to The State of Jefferson, a county on the Cali/Oregon border with big dreams and a kickass flag. Of course, they haven't seceded yet, but when they do, it's only going to be a matter of time before we can all live in the utopian Republic of Cascadia, where, as Jefferson residents, we'll run on Metric Time and help strengthen Cascadia's southern border against Californian incursions.
And hey! Public radio!
And hey! Public radio!
Sneering at President John Adams as "querulous, Bald, blind, crippled, Toothless Adams" got Ben Franklin's grandson arrested under the Sedition Act of 1798. Federalists like Adams and Alexander Hamilton used the Sedition Act to muzzle highly aggressive elements of the press. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison fought back -- and won. Understanding this early power grab by the U.S. executive branch helps put recent events into historical context. The struggle itself has been part of the United States of America since the beginning, and anyone working to fight Cheney and Ashcroft's unconstitutional assault happens to be in pretty good company. Happy Fourth of July.