AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

04 July 2010

Spirit.


From David McCullough's John Adams ...
Alone in his upstairs parlor at Seventh and Market, Jefferson went to work, seated in an unusual revolving Windsor chair and holding on his lap a portable writing box, a small folding desk of his own design which, like the chair, he had especially made for him by a Philadelphia cabinetmaker. Traffic rattled by below the open windows. The June days and nights turned increasingly warm.

He worked rapidly and, to judge by surviving drafts, with a sure command of his material. He had none of his books with him, nor needed any, he later claimed. It was not his objective to be original, he would explain, only “to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.”


Unlike his friend and colleague, John Adams, Jefferson admitted that he was without the skill of oratory. His talents lie with the quill.

What must have Jefferson experienced in that room? How imposing was the weight of the task, the responsibility? Or, was the struggle from within -- the writer’s worst enemy – himself. Adams wanted the 33 year old Virginian to write the document. What was his routine over those few weeks in Philadelphia? The foundation for not only the maturation of thirteen rag-tag colonies, but the inspiration for every independence movement since then, was laid in the courses of Jefferson's words and ideas. With his words Jefferson was committing treason, an act punishable by death. The stakes were higher than that and I believe that Jefferson understood that. Not just the 13 colonies ... but men ... all men.

Jefferson stated, "Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and 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."

Unlike his friend and colleague, John Adams, Jefferson admitted that he was without the skill of oratory. His talents lie with the quill.

His efforts produced a living document, capable of growth, flexibility, and ... change.



The desk on which a new nation announced itself to the world in 1776—in Jefferson’s script of marvelous clarity and straight-line precision—had a long career of service. Indeed, Jefferson used it for almost 50 years, through all his subsequent life as politician, ambassador, statesman, inventor, architect, educator, President and private citizen. And as the United States grew and prospered with each passing year, the significance of the writing box grew too.

Read the rest here.

Read. Three annotated texts of The Declaration of Independence are here.

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