zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Happy Fourth of July to all ZP readers

Happy Fourth of July to all ZP readers

[ by Charles Cameron — from all of us at Zenpundit ]
.

From President Woodrow Wilson‘s Independence Day speech, July 4th, 1914:

Mr. Chairman and Fellow-Citizens:

We are assembled to celebrate the one hundred and thirty-eighth anniversary of the birth of the United States. I suppose that we can more vividly realize the circumstances of that birth standing on this historic spot than it would be possible to realize them anywhere else. The Declaration of Independence was written in Philadelphia; it was adopted in this historic building by which we stand. I have just had the privilege of sitting in the chair of the great man who presided over the deliberations of those who gave the declaration to the world. My hand rests at this moment upon the table upon which the declaration was signed. We can feel that we are almost in the visible and tangible presence of a great historic transaction.

Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence or attended with close comprehension to the real character of it when you have heard it read? If you have, you will know that it is not a Fourth of July oration. The Declaration of Independence was a document preliminary to war. It was a vital piece of practical business, not a piece of rhetoric; and if you will pass beyond those preliminary passages which we are accustomed to quote about the rights of men and read into the heart of the document you will see that it is very express and detailed, that it consists of a series of definite specifications concerning actual public business of the day. Not the business of our day, for the matter with which it deals is past, but the business of that first revolution by which the Nation was set up, the business of 1776. Its general statements, its general declarations cannot mean anything to us unless we append to it a similar specific body of particulars as to what we consider the essential business of our own day.

**

If you’re a strategist or historian, these sentences may be of particular interest:

Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence or attended with close comprehension to the real character of it when you have heard it read? If you have, you will know that it is not a Fourth of July oration. The Declaration of Independence was a document preliminary to war.

Ahem, and if you’ll permit me my own reading, the key sentence here for my purposes is:

We can feel that we are almost in the visible and tangible presence of a great historic transaction.

WHile for factual purposes, 1776 and 1914 are separated by the intervening history, for the purposes of myth, dream, and psychological impact, that “almost” evaporates and the two moments merge, synchronous in a diachronic world.

**

Take whichever meaning you will, and accept it with our best wishes here at Zenpundit for a fireworked and festive Fourth!

h/t War on the Rocks.

One Response to “Happy Fourth of July to all ZP readers”

  1. Daniel Bassill Says:

    Hi Charles.
    .
    I read the Declaration of Independence last year, as part of a group annotation using http://www.hypothes.is.
    .
    In no place do I see the word “democracy”.
    .
    What I see is a preamble, then a list of grievances that relate to the self-interests of the merchant class and affluent in the colonies, then a declaration “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown” and “they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.”
    .
    A lot has been read into this, perhaps aided by the drafting of the Constitution several year later.
    .
    This statement in the opening paragraphs has opened the door for wide ranging interpretation.
    .
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
    .
    I’ve been participating in some deeper reading activities using Hypothes.is for the past couple of years. It leads to deeper reading and engagement of readers in the margins. This is a link to the PDF that led me to read the Declaration of Independence.
    .
    Since mid 1990s I’ve been building a web library with links to many articles that provide a historical understanding of race, poverty and inequality, etc. I added a video to it a while ago that described the American revolution as a response to English efforts at the time to abolish slavery. Those taking time to read the Declaration of Independence this week (or in coming weeks) might find it interesting.
    .
    I continue to value reading your articles. Best wishes to you in coming months.
    .
    Dan

Leave a Reply


Switch to our mobile site