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Who really wrote the Declaration of Independence? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Friday, 11 November 2011 01:41

 

It is commonly taught that the contents of the Declaration of Independence (as well as the actual writing) came from Jefferson and that its Principles are Deistic and the foundation of American Civil Religion, even to this day.  But this popular concept can and must be challenged.

Within the large group known as the "Founding Fathers", there are two key subsets: the "Signers of the Declaration of Independence" (who signed the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776) and the Framers of the Constitution (who were delegates to the Federal Convention and took part in framing or drafting the proposed Constitution of the United States in 1787).  We are concerned here with the first group of Founders.

American historian Richard B. Morris, in his 1973 book Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.  But there are at least 100 men who could be considered to be Founders. Secular historians (who dominant the field of American History) understandably focus on the most secular Founders, such as Jefferson, Madison and Franklin (although even they, as Deists, believed in God and the importance of Religion for moral character and civic virtue). George Mason, Thomas Paine and even Patrick Henry can be added to that group.  Secular Historians neglect the majority of the Founders, the ones who were active church-goers and often very sound orthodox Christians, such as Rev John Witherspoon.  In this group would be John Jay, John Dickenson, Benjamin Rush, James Wilson, Rufus King, William Livingston, Samuel Adams and especially the latter's cousin John Adams, also Robert Treat Paine, William Paca, Gouverneur Morris, Roger Sherman and Alexander Hamilton.  Of course the hunfred or so were not all "key" Founders, but they all contributed and had a vote.  Many of them made a major difference in deliberations,  It is reasonable to believe their influence was orthodox Christian. They were also instrumental in garnering public support for Independence and/or the Constitution which followed.

By no means was the Declaration all-Jefferson, as many have falsely been led to believe. He himself disclaimed originality and his first draft of the Declaration was greatly edited and changed by the Congress.  It was the second draft, a collaborative project, that won the day,  After much debate and with many revisions and additions to the original made by Congressional Delegates, Jefferson penned it.  The words and literary style, the rhetoric, are his; but the ideas, principles and content did not originate with Jefferson.  He wrote the following in a letter in 1825 to a Henry Lee-

"This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind ..."

The question we are left with is this. What was the American mind in the mid-18th Century?  Many factors were in the wind when the Declaration was written: the historical relationship between the Colonies and England, centuries of English Legal History & Tradition, Calvinism, The Great Awakening, The Enlightenment, Deism, Civil Religion, strong personalities and "Politics". How does the finished product, the Declaration, reveal these influences?  But most important, does the final manuscript it reflect Biblical Principles?  Is it a Christian document?






 

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Last Updated on Friday, 11 November 2011 01:42