July 06, 2004

I took my own advice today

and took myself off to the NY Public Library to see the exhibit of the Thomas Jefferson handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence in which he underlined the bits taken out by the committee before its adoption by the Continental Congress. I posted about this exhibit before here.

I had a number of different impressions. First, I was surprised how legible his handwriting was. He clearly, at least to my inexpert eye, used a quill pen. Second, his spelling was conventional. He spelled the word course as course, and not "courfe", as the contemporaneous newspaper printings of the Declaration did. Third, the ink was brown and faded but packed an emotional punch. I can't explain it, but I was quite moved and actually blurted out loud, "oh, my", when I read the first sentence. Fourth, the draft penned by TJ actually contained a scathing denunciation of slavery and he blamed the King for importing the institution to the colonies and then for inciting the slaves to take up arms against the colonists. I thought it was interesting enough that I will type it out here from the copy they gave out at the library. It appears in the section of the document listing the colonists grievances against the King:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it's most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people, who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished dye, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase the liberty of which he has deprived them by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

If you are in or can get to NY, I highly recommend going to see this.

Posted by Random Penseur at July 6, 2004 01:42 PM
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