Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Insurrection Day! (William Grigg)

William Grigg on American ignorance of that inflammatory document penned by Thomas Jefferson 232 years ago:

It has often been said that if voting actually changed things, it would be illegal. In much the same sense it could be said that if the genuine meaning of the event commemorated on the Fourth of July were to become widely known, our rulers would respond by criminalizing the celebration and the document that should be at its center.

This isn't a hypothetical proposition. Around the turn of the 20th Century it was common for "Wobblies" -- radical activists belonging to the Industrial Workers of the World, a schismatic socialist sect -- to be arrested for reading the Declaration of Independence in public.

The inflammatory, seditious content of that document was largely unknown to the public even then, and when tranquil middle-class Americans were confronted with unsettling assertions like the claim that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed" and that "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it," many of them assumed their ears were being assaulted by the rhetoric of foreign subversives.

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