Friday, June 08, 2007

The thing about the Declaration of Independence is that it's a resolution.

Lots of resolutions are passed every day in legislatures and other meetings around the world without anyone outside the meeting paying attention to exactly what the resolution said.

Some people in the Congress that adapted the resolution were later saying, "Well, if I'd known it was going to be such a big deal, I would have gotten on the committee."

But if more people had been on the committee to draft the text of the resolution, it probably wouldn't have been as well-written.

I mean, you can love or hate a law without knowing exactly how it was written. You can vote for a law without really noticing exactly what it says. I, as a California voting voting for and against local and state laws on the ballot, do that very thing. I vote them yes or no without thinking much about the exact words.

With the resolution to declare independence from Britain, and stop hoping for a negotiated settlement, the high quality of the exact words are what made the exact words important.

Thomas Jefferson never spoke in the meetings of the Continental Congress. He didn't speak in meetings. Going around in his private life, he sang all the time.

He was a good writer. He could make his writing sing in a way that he couldn't make his private life sing. Harmony was utterly lacking between his lovely well-expressed ideas, and the people he owned.

He wasn't good for everything. He was good for a well-written resolution that became a dare-you, double dare you challenge to idealists across the ages, including people who live in the country he helped start.

He did a good job. His fellow committee members, including John Adams, let him. During the revolutionary war, that seemed grander than it might have because of how the Declaration of Independence was written, Abigal Adams wrote John that one of her challenges was that a Negro working for her had quit. Tedious for her. Legal for him. No question. He could quit his job. Yay!

Thomas Jefferson did the resolution-writing job far better than it really needed to be done. He had a bunch of folks on his land who couldn't legally quit their jobs. He sang all the time out of the public eye. I wonder what he sang. I wonder what his personal servant who was usually with him, Jupiter, thought of his singing. It creeps me out that a man who couldn't quit his personal servant job was named after the king of the jobs.

Give me a break. Help me find ways for our songs to be both well-written and true.