11. Why Is The Declaration of Independence so Important?

In 1776, our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, officially marking the beginning of the United States of America.

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Here is the transcript of our conversation: 

Brittany: Hi Connor!

Connor: Hey Brittany.

Brittany: So I know our listeners are hearing this a couple days later, but we just celebrated the 4th of July, which is my personal favorite holiday. And when we typically think of independence day and we think of America’s birthday, which is true, we all know that, but it’s also commemorating the signing of a pretty important document not just for our country, but the whole world. Do you know the name of that document, Connor? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Connor: The Magna Carta…

Brittany: No, but that anniversary just happened too. The Declaration of Independence.

Connor: Alright.

Brittany: So today, I thought we could talk a little bit about this document and why it’s so special. And no, it is not because there’s a treasure map on the back of it, for those of you who are also national treasure fans like I am. But Connor, I was wondering if you could kinda like kick us off and talk about what this document is.

Connor: You know, I’m a big fan of this document and we created, a lot of our listeners know that we just ran a massive Independence Day Sale almost to the point where and I kid you not, my wife several times has said you shouldn’t do sales anymore because we sold so many books, Brittany. In one weekend, we sold over 49,000 books.

Brittany: Holy smokes. That’s a lot.

Connor: I mean, it’s insane and most authors, kind of the average, like when you write a book, the average author, I think it’s under 500 copies of a book. That’s kind of the average across all authors, all books in one weekend, we sold 48,000. Our team has been so, so, so busy playing catch up. And part of the reason that sale waskind of so interesting to people is we created a new ebook and just like a PDF document with a lot of content. And it’s called the 10 Important Facts about The Declaration of Independence. And so now that was part of the bundle but now if you go to our website, if you go to tuttletwins.com/products. You scroll down and you can find the eBooks and we have it there that you can just kind of buy on your own.

And so it was really fun putting this together because I am a big fan of this document. And one thing Brittany, maybe I wanna talk about first is that, and this was one of the points we made in the document. The declaration was, was a last resort. I mean, first, I guess first, what was the declaration? Right. Everyone knows it’s, you know, kind of the, the breakup letter

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: …With Great Britain, right? Like we’re done with you. We don’t wanna be part of your government anymore, but what’s interesting, Brittany is that it was a last resort. The colonists had undergone several efforts to try and make peace with Britain. They considered themselves Englishmen, right? They considered themselves as having rights as Englishmen and they saw the king and parliament as kind of violating their rights. And they tried again and again, there was even after the battle started, and there was shooting, there were deaths on both sides.

There were still efforts underway to try and avoid war to try and seek peace. There was something called the Olive Branch Petition. This was the final attempt to try and avoid the war. And in this document they, the colonists, the congressmen, these kind of elected officials, they pledged their loyalty to the crown. They said, look, we’re British citizens. They asked the king to repeal some punitive problematic laws to try and preserve peace. And the King. King George refused to even read this petition before declaring the colonists to be traitors to be in rebellion. And so he issued the Proclamation of Rebellion that-that basically said, nope. And so, you know, at the end of the day, they felt like that this is kind of our last resort and now, you know, it’s war.

Brittany: Yeah, well and there’s something called John Locke. He’s an old philosopher, even before the declaration. He talked about something called the Right to Revolution, which sounds very exciting. That was my favorite part about a constitutional class as a college student. But even he says that you don’t have the right to rebel until you’ve tried every other like outlet first. Right. You’ve got to try to make peace. You got to try to do it the right way. However, if after all these things like the colonist did, your government still won’t listen to you, then you do have the right to rebel, which is exactly what the Declaration of Independence was.

Connor: What I find interesting Brittany is, we look back on history as Americans. We’re like, “Oh, how great that was” and “We were right.” And you know, we won the war and, and that was the correct thing to do. And everyone was a Patriot, but on that latter point, it’s always interesting.

We tend to think that the colonists were kind of united and they wanted to throw off the chains of, you know, British rule. And-And that’s simply not the case. You know, it’s estimated that around 40 to 45% of the “Americans,” the colonists were supportive of the cause. It was very popular especially after Tom Paine wrote Common Sense.

Brittany: Yeah. If you haven’t read

Connor: And for those listening, yeah. If you haven’t read Common Sense, it’s not very long. This was a pamphlet that I think remains one of the most read works of, you know, literature or…

Brittany: I did not know that.

Connor: Yeah, like up there with the Bible and especially when you look at the population of the time and you compare how many people bought this pamphlet, this booklet Common Sense, relative to how many people there actually were. Just this high, high percentage of people reading this. And-And so it was very popular. Go read it as a family, if you haven’t read that before, it’s very interesting.

But even still Brittany only 40, 45% of the population were supportive of the war. The rest of the people, you know, they wanted to avoid war, they didn’t wanna pick sides. They, they maybe chalked up the whole affair to, you know, politics, “Oh, I that’s too controversial for me, I just wanna attend to my business.” And Brittany, I think that’s really interesting because today there’s some of us who are very act excuse me, actively pushing for freedom, right. We’re in the fight. We’re trying to restrict government power. There’s a lot of people, of course, who oppose us who think very differently and want big government and so forth. And then there’s a lot of people in the middle who are just kind of tuned out, apathetic…

Brittany: Doing their own thing!

Connor:  Yeah. If you’re apathetic, it means you’re, you’re kind of indifferent. You’re not really interested. You have apathy. So that’s an apathetic person. But yeah, I think that the same holds true today, right? We see something similar in our own society.

Brittany: Yeah, absolutely. And one thing you brought up something that I really like you said that we didn’t all agree. And one thing that I love about the declaration and our founding fathers, specifically is when we look at this document, this is not a bunch of men who are like, “Yeah, you know what? We all came to an agreement on this. I love every single person in this room.”

The Second Continental Congress was a nightmare. If you, and you think about this too, there was no air conditioning back in 1776. And everybody wore the wigs like the men wore the wigs

Connor: Mhmm.

Brittany: When they went in public. So I always just think how grumpy they must have been because here they are in the, you know, the summertime it’s super hot, and they’re all in their wigs. They’re all yelling at each other because nobody can agree. But nobody but they had to come to an agreement and this is what I think we’re missing nowadays. Everybody seems to just not get along and we can’t even see how we can compromise with people or how we can get along. But the founders did not agree on most things. There was a lot of contention, and a lot of anger in that room, but they were still able to kind of move forward and do what needed to be done. Because as you said, the government had just kind of abused them too much. They had taken too much.

Connor: I agree with that, Brittany. And one of the things that I like to do each year and-and I’m not always perfect at doing it. In fact, I did not do it this year cause instead I was creating this eBook. But what I’d like to do is-is read the declaration specifically, the list of grievances.

Brittany: Yes.

Connor: The list of reasons, why the founders, the colonists were like, that’s it. We can’t take it anymore. You violated our rights. And it’s so interesting to read that list of things that they were complaining about and compare it to our own day, right? Like, like the, our own government

Brittany: We could’ve put more! I think we probably could’ve put more.

Connor: Right, exactly. They’re worried about limited taxes and you know, the executive power of the king and restricting immigration and these-these kinds of things. And it’s mindboggling to say, ‘kay, we are, we are basically doing a full on revolution against the most powerful government in the world over these things.

And then you compare it to today and you’re like, wow, what would it take to get people to that tipping point where, you know, “I’m fed up and I’m not gonna take it anymore,” right?

Brittany: Yup, yup.

Connor: Like, it’s so interesting. And-And it feels a lot Brittany to me at least. And I’d love to get your take on this that, you know, back in the day, there was much more kind of awareness about people’s rights. They were much more independent thinking. However, in our day it feels like people have been kind of trained to be dependent to rely on the government not no longer, very caring about their rights and their freedoms.

What are your thoughts about that?

Brittany: Yeah, I agree. But it’s it, that’s always so weird to me because you think of today being an era where we’re also connected, right? We have the internet. We’ve got smartphones. Everything we want to know is right in front of our faces. We could, we could know our rights if we really wanted to, we don’t, we choose not to. Where back then they didn’t have any of these things, right? But they stayed more aware. They read these pamphlets, right? The pamphlets were huge. They read newspapers, they read things. They knew their rights because they had to, they were more, they were more connected kind of as a community, but we don’t do that anymore. And part of me thinks it’s mainly just because we do have so many distractions, there are so many other things to be doing. It’s easy for us not to get involved.

Connor: Well, think anyone listening to this podcast and reading the Tuttle Twins books is certainly part of the people trying to do their duty and pay attention and kind of WAKE UP to what’s happening in our world. And if you are a first-time listener listening to this episode or you haven’t gone all the way back, I would encourage you to go back to the first episode where we tease a little project about American history that might be of interest to listen to because there’s a lot more work, I think that’s needed to help people learn these things in a very important way. On this issue, Brittany, I, and I put this in the eBook as well, but it ties in really well to what you’re saying, is that when Thomas Jefferson was taking the lead role in drafting the Declaration of Independence, he was trying to basically stitch together a lot of things that people already believed and in fact, a lot of things that people were already talking about.

There had been some states that in their state legislatures, they had been passing, you know, proclamations and declarations and asserting their rights, especially in Virginia. And so Thomas Jefferson had access to, you know, the different ways that people were saying it and thinking about it. And almost half a century later, after the Declaration of Independence was written, he was writing a letter to someone about his role. And of course, by this point he had been President of the United States and everyone knew who Thomas Jefferson was right for his role and everything. So he is writing this letter to someone explaining or sharing some thoughts about it, and he says that, you know, the purpose of the declaration was not, and I’m quoting now from him “…was not to find out new principles or new arguments, never before thought of,” he then says “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.”

In other words, he’s saying we didn’t try and like make a new argument. We didn’t try and really introduce something new. We just looked around and like, what was the popular thing that people were believing on this issue? And then we tried to word it in a way that was proper and powerful because of the gravity and the importance of the situation. What I like about that is, you know, it plays into earlier what we’re saying, not everyone agreed. Of course this isn’t like a unanimous thing that all Americans felt this way, but especially with Common Sense, Tom Paine’s work, really helping kind of light a fire under a lot of people. There was a lot of, of people who were very excited about these ideas and who were supporting them and so Thomas Jefferson’s role was to basically stitch that all together rand make sure that people, you know, understood and-and felt that in the declaration, they weren’t having to be persuaded. They felt almost as if it was someone giving voice to their own thoughts. Right. So they could say, “Yeah! That’s what I believe” and then go support the-the effort for independence.

Brittany: Well, Thomas Jefferson was just such a good writer anyway. I mean, is he is one of my, I know there’s a lot of debate around him right now, but as a writer and as a founding father, he was amazing.

And I get a little bad at Hamilton, which is very popular right now because he’s kind of, he’s kind of portrayed as like a, a bumbling fool in Hamilton when he was not that way at all and I think you kind of hit the nail in the head. He was very great at communicating ideas. You know, John Adams was there, he’s another founding father during the the drafting of the declaration, but it was really Jefferson’s words and the way he worded them that I think made this document as beautiful and almost poetic as it is now.

Connor:

And we think of it as a document, like you just said, and I’ve referred to it the same way. But in fact this was, this was more than just a piece of paper. This was more than just a breakup letter that I called it earlier. This was an act of treason.

Brittany: Yeah.

Connor: Right?

Brittany: Yup.

Connor: Like putting your “John Hancock,” right on this document. We say that because John Hancock was one of the delegates there and he wrote his name really big, cause he wanted to make sure that King George could see it with his spectacles, right. Or what, you know? And so that John Hancock was the bigger signature. But here’s all these people writing their signature saying, we agree with this. We are committing to this. They’re pledging to one another.

Brittany: Yep.

Connor: Right. They’re, I’m gonna get this wrong there.

Brittany: I  know, I was trying too, they’re a mutual… What is it mutually…?

Connor: Mutually….I, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives,

Brittany: Our lives…

Connor: Our fortunes

Brittany: Yup.

Connor: And our sacred honor.

Brittany: Yeah, got it. Yep.

Connor: And so this is, this is super important. And they’re saying that they’re saying we pledged to each other, our lives, our fortunes, our honor because they knew that, that simple document was going to be insanely controversial. It was going to provoke and fuel war and Great Britain, of course, King George was not gonna like it. So they were committing treason and it’s not really treason in the sense that America won. And so, you know, they were no longer subject to the British government who could, you know, hang them or put them in jail. But certainly, during the war, there were plenty of attempts to try and, you know, punish the the people who disagreed with Great Britain and wanted to be free. So, it shows that I guess actions have consequences and, something like the Declaration of Independence absolutely had consequences.

Brittany: And they were very lucky that they didn’t you know, that they, that they did win the war. Another thing I wanted to point out is it was there’s that line, you know, that “All men are created equal,” and I’ve heard today on several things, “Oh, that only meant certain people. It only meant these people,” but the context we see it in, now and what it meant for the whole world is that it was “All mankind of created equal.” And that was something that really struck me in having said that, you know, back in these days, women didn’t have a lot of rights in-in America, but, but this line is still applicable to me. And it’s still applicable to everybody because as it’s become a part of our national, you know, belief and understanding and principles like that mean that every single person here is created equal. And that’s, that’s always been my favorite line.

Connor: That’s a great note to end on, especially not only for women, but people who are ethnic minorities, blacks, you know, there’s a lot of concern about that. Weeks ago on our Instagram page, we shared this image that Elijah put together kind of a custom drawing. He did of all the different characters in our books that have had, you know, different kinds of ethnicities and backgrounds showing that you know, “All lives matter. We’re all created equal, that we all need justice. We all have rights.” your right to point out that, you know, even though at the time it was not applied quite holistically or in that full way, it’s something that we continue to, you know, improve at. And so in some ways, things are better than they were 250 years ago. And in some ways, man, we have kind of fallen behind and the government has had a lot of power.

So it’s a good exercise to, review. Hopefully you guys got that eBook. If not, you can go to tuttletwins.com/products, scroll down a bit and you’ll find that eBook and check out the show notes page for today, in fact, we’ll go ahead and link to that ebook. As well as the actual text of the declaration, as well. And some other resources that we might find that would be of interest. So that’s tuttletwins.com/podcast. Make sure you’ve shared this with your friends.

Let’s get a lot of people listening and learning together and until next time, Brittany, thanks for chatting.

Brittany: See you next time!

 

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