One Small Voice. A Lot of Big Ideas. Let Freedom Ring!
Those of us who write for a living, whether it’s writing marketing copy and business communications as I do, slaving over a book, penning poetry or even blogging, understand how painful some days, some tasks can be.
Did you know that Thomas Jefferson began writing The Declaration of Independence on June 11, 1776, worked through the committee’s revisions and had a final document to present to the Continental Congress on June 28? Three days later, on July 2, the Congress voted for America’s Independence. Then the document was tweaked by the Congress before presenting to the public on July 4, 1776.
25 days. That was all it took to write one of America’s most important documents. And the revisions! The thought that the 56 members, all opinionated men of learning, were able to agree on the final wording in just two days is remarkable.
One of my favorite anecdote about this point in history is John Adam’s recanting of the selection of Thomas Jefferson to write The Declaration of Independence. In 1822 John Adams wrote a letter to Timothy Pickering about the process. Here are a few excerpts:
”You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence?…
… Mr. Jefferson came into Congress in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation – not even Samuel Adams was more so – that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second.
The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draft, I suppose because we were the two first on the list.
The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft.
I said, ‘I will not,’ ‘You should do it.’
‘Oh! no.’ ‘Why will you not? You ought to do it.’
’I will not.’
‘What can be your reasons?’
‘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.’
’Well,’ said Jefferson, ‘if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.’…”
The rest, as they say is history. Our history.
Despite the trials we must endure (and work to overcome) at the hands of those who take away our liberties so eloquently petitioned in 1776, I still believe Americans are the luckiest people in the world.
Happy Independence Day!