A document that often gets ignored in our discussions of the foundations of the country is the Declaration of Independence. It is not the Constitution. The Constitution is our core legal document. At the same time it is part of the thinking and philosophy that makes us what we are. It shows us what was going on in the minds of the Founders. It needs to be considered.
When I was teaching American history I tried to get the middle school students to paraphrase parts of the Declaration of Independence. I told them to pretend they were trying to put it in words that their five year old brother would understand. These eighth graders could not do it. I tried for years and rarely could get across the idea of restating in simpler words.
Take for instance the first phrase,
When in the Course of human Events,...A typical “paraphrase” of a modern eight grader would be, “When human Events Course”. After I quit screaming and they removed my straight jacket I would go back and try again.
What does it mean? How do you put it simply? How about, “As life goes on” or “All during history”. Is that too hard? Evidently.
The Founders were immersed in history. They read and studied. They argued and discussed. Were all of their facts correct? I doubt it. Did all of their arguments make sense? Don’t make me laugh. Were they always consistent? No, they were always human. That having been said, they called each other to account and tried to see what had worked and what had not worked.
We are involved in human events. Life is going on. We need to pay attention and put in our two cents worth.
homo unius libri