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Current time:0:00Total duration:8:10

Video transcript

so in the last few videos we looked at the final version the Declaration of Independence as it was as it was approved of but here we look like it seems like we have a very not final version of the Declaration which really amazing is they go through five drafts at least of the Declaration and it's wonderful to watch how each of the drafts changes you have this committee of real people you know Jefferson and Adams and Franklin are all part of that committee and Jefferson is using a lap desk one of those little things he invented so he could stand up or sit down and write this in a little room on Market Street and then he shows it to Adams and he shows it to Franklin very deferentially said with your broad and view of the world dr. Franklin perhaps you can make some suggestions I mean certain atoms could be his father right right Jefferson's only 33 I mean really really young and you have you know Franklin and Adams Franklin's and you know Hidden 70s then ah and very much of a father figure but you see real people working together in these rooms on Market Street in Philadelphia trying to craft this document yeah yeah and you see here me this looks like you know someone editing a paper which shows you how important it is to edit in a way and this is you know those of us who are writers and editors we like the fact that you should you should really sort of quibble over each word you should make these are words that matter for example you can see they put in a little phrase right here separate and equal station in other words America is going to become a separate nation and an equal nation but that word separate and equal actually goes down in American history with some resonance because it's used for a while to defend segregation so even when they get the you know words almost perfect they have a resonance that they have to be careful about and and you think they realize when they were writing it how important this document was going to be one of the amusing things is this was not considered the most important committee to be on in June in July of 1776 in fact John Adams thinks he's already written a great document of American Revolution which is a document written in May asking the various colonies to get rid of their royal governors because we are going to break away so Adams is quite willing to let Jefferson write this draft because he thinks that this is not the most important of all the docket and on some level to I guess defend Adams a little bit that does seem like a big deal this was in May of 1776 you rang you know once you're getting rid of your royal governor's you really are separating yourself and they've already had a vote to declare a - to be independent so this is just a document let facts be submitted to a candid world you know the opinions of mankind they should declare the causes this is really just a public relations document but the reason it turns out to be so important is it so beautifully written it becomes the American creed when they get together in these rooms and edit it you just suddenly they say all men are created equal this becomes not just a propaganda document but a mission statement for who we are as a people and and it doesn't really the sense that the power of poetry I mean they could have said these exact same things in very terse and this is why it was so good Jefferson wrote it because Franklin is a very good writer but he's a very simple plain writer you know he writes Poor Richard's Almanack a penny saved is a penny earned you know he's one of the first Americans not to write in a very flowery way John Adams as letters are very beautiful but they kind of pompous an aura tonton self-important you have a beautiful poet in Jefferson but as we're looking at this document on the screen even he benefits from some good at it and just I mean so this is literally Jefferson's handwriting we see here this is Jefferson's handwriting on the first draft it's in the Library of Congress if you want to go see it the final document is in the National Archives about eight blocks away and it's really wonderful to look at all of these documents especially I mean what do you see here where they edit the the great second paragraph so we hold these truths to be self-evident and and you mentioned earlier that before it was written what sacred and undeniable yeah so so they're using the word sake for the truth when they when Jefferson writes the first draft and to me if you look at the back slashes the dark back slashes there those are Benjamin Franklin's back slashes I'm pretty sure because he used a printers pen and he was a you know publisher and so you use that sort of back slashes to cross things out and he writes a words self-evident now one of the things is we historians never fully know Carl Becker who was a great historian of the Declaration he's the one who said that that was probably Franklin's at it for me I've spent a lot of time in Ben Franklin's papers which were at Yale University library and to me it really feels like his handwriting and so we assume that it's Ben Franklin who takes out sacred because he doesn't want these truths to be based on religion he wants these truths to be based on rationality and reason and and so once again it's not only the style of the crossing out it's it's this is this is in line with Franklin's personality and beliefs Franklin was somebody who had read the great thinkers of the British and Scottish enlightenment that means John Locke David Hume David Hume was a person who came up with the concept of self-evident truths I mean a self-evident truth would be that all bachelors are married as opposed to an as opposed to you know a more contingent truth like Philadelphia is smaller than London kind of in math an axiom an axiom exactly the fact that two plus two or two plus three is five that's not you know that's not something that has to be further proved and so these are somewhat these are self-evident and that's what Hume does and Franklin loves that and Franklin loves Isaac Newton too because Franklin is a scientist and so he believes that there are laws of nature of nature's God and that there's certain self-evident truths so he doesn't want the word sacred in there because that kind of seems like Divine Right of Kings God's the one who made these truths and he's saying no as you as we discuss that whole paragraph it's about rationality and reason getting us to those truths right but they also do talk about as we talked about previously there's a balance here because they did talk about created equal let's look at tell us you know what do you see there that you know this edit that and you know it says that they were you had certain inherent and inalienable rights and you see John Adams and I'm pretty sure we're pretty sure that's John Adams is writing not just because of his writing but because of the concept he was a little bit more religious than the others on the committee and so he says they are endowed by their creator he puts in that phrase by their creator with certain inalienable rights so to balance it's a balance between rationality and reason which is self-evident and divine providence this notion that were all children of the same creator and therefore we're all endowed with certain inalienable rights yeah this is really amazing it's a realize that they were human beings yeah that we'll human beings will probably arguing just like you you know Jefferson gets really upset at some point not at Franklin and Adam but other people start editing it and Franklin tells him this wonderful story about when he was a young tradesman in Philadelphia and somebody had a sign about selling hats and everybody tried to edit a sign form and Franklin said that's why I've never been on a committee that's going to have a lot of people editing what I write but you know those of us who are editors we kind of think those edits actually improve the document yet seem like it turned out a pretty good result you know you don't get much better than we hold these truths to be self-evident