The Declaration of Independence that we know and love today is NOT in its original form.
After reading one of the first drafts of the document, Benjamin Franklin was left bothered by what he read. One phrase, in particular, bothered him the most. As a result, he requested a slight change that, although minuscule, represented the great intellectual honesty that our founding fathers became so famous for.
Thomas Jefferson’s Draft
When it was first written back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of what would later be known as the Declaration of Independence. He began the historic document with these simple words:
“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable…”
The document would go on to list how free people should live and be governed. And how a free people should rise up and dissolve a government once its tyranny became too oppressive:
“That whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it…”
You or I after reading those words, probably wouldn’t find an issue with the contents. But Benjamin Franklin did. And one phrase that he hated would need to be changed immediately.
Benjamin Frankin Requests A Change
The problem that Franklin took issue with the most was Thomas Jefferson’s baseless claims that the document was “sacred and undeniable.”
After all, in the age of The Enlightenment, which was when these men lived, nothing was to be considered “sacred” for the thinking man. They weren’t building a religion, they were stating basic principles based on common sense.
And despite the fact that the founding fathers were rising up against England’s oppression for the sake of liberty and freedom, they had enough intellectual honesty to realize that they could be completely wrong in their claims.
As a result, Franklin didn’t want to words “sacred” or “undeniable” to be in the document. Instead, he carefully crafted the words to represent the free-thinking spirit of their time:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”
The Lessons Of Intellectual Honesty
There’s something downright romantic about the idea that Benjamin Franklin was smart enough to know that their claims were purely conjecture.
In their time of the philosophical “Enlightenment,” these men put logic and reason above dogmas and oversimplification. They chose to be free thinkers instead of dogmatic activists.
Despite the fact that the Founding Fathers were literally confronting one of the largest empires of the world at the time, Great Britain, they were willing to put that all aside to think rationally in the face of their coming trials for the sake of logic and reason.
We may never see such men again.