Writing and Reading the Declaration of Independence

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About the author:
David Hopp is a retired scientist, having received a doctorate in nuclear physics from UCLA in 1964. He enjoyed a long career in computing in the health sciences. During retirement he has pursued a long-harbored interest in early modern English literature and colonial American history. In 2009 he published "I never did repent for doing good," a companion to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. His web site, www.cassiodorus.com, includes work he has done on the visualization of quantitative information.

Writing and Reading the Declaration of Independence

An Eighteenth Century View

Authored by David Ian Hopp

In 1825, near the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson looked back on the hot Philadelphia summer of 1776 and said this about the essence of his Declaration of Independence: "Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or the elementary books of public right . . ."

"Writing and Reading the Declaration of Independence" visits each paragraph of the Declaration from draft to final version, carefully and enthusiastically explaining what each means and what in the writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may have given rise to it. What was original in this foundation of American society? Where did the thoughts and words come from? What influence did familiar figures like George Mason, John Locke, and Tom Paine have on it? What other less familiar writers in England and the colonies played a role in it?

This book meets the Declaration of Independence on its own terms, with as little intrusion of hindsight as possible. Looking at the original draft of the Declaration shows that its editors, the entire Second Continental Congress as a committee of the whole, made some small changes that were definitely improvements. They also removed some large sections, one on the practice of slavery, that are rarely mentioned by those who study and comment on this document. "Writing and Reading the Declaration of Independence" is a preservation and invigoration of the American past.

Publication Date:
1463742355 / 9781463742355
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
7" x 10"
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / United States / Colonial Period

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