This flashback to my childhood comes courtesy of Jake Tapper, who tweeted out this old Schoolhouse Rock video from 1975. Even for Schoolhouse Rock, the oversimplifications here are laughable, and the lesson here skips over some important concepts — such as that the conflict originally started over the desire of the colonists to be treated as full British subjects, and that King George III wasn’t sitting on bags of gold but was getting bled dry by the costs of defending the colonies. The story of our independence is a long and fascinating one, but not for any of the reasons offered here. It’s still fun, though, and feel free to blow raspberries at King George all you want:
Andrew Malcolm provides a bit more nuance to the story of independence:
The 1,317 words in this enduring and then-revolutionary statement of principles and universal human rights were largely written by Thomas Jefferson between June 8 and June 28, 1776. The 13 colonies had already been at war with Great Britain for more than a year, with many believing a reconciliation would eventually occur.
But King George III was not into conciliation. Nor allowing colonial representation in London. His new taxes would stand, including punishment for Massachusetts over the Boston Tea Party. And with the world’s most formidable fighting force at his command, few doubted the royal point of view would prevail.
However, a movement for complete separation was quickly gaining momentum within the colonies. In preparation for a formal announcement, Thomas Jefferson was assigned to write a first draft.
No surprise there, as the 33-year-old lawyer had a reputation as an intellectual, a skilled writer, multilingual speaker and staunch democrat. Indeed, it was Jefferson as POTUS No. 3 who introduced the political handshake as a gesture of equality among American citizens. The revered Gen. Washington deemed such common contact beneath the office.
A Renaissance man with flowing red hair, the future diplomat and chief executive set quill to paper and allowed his democratic instincts to flow freely….
Putting their names on that parchment was no small step for these men: “We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Military victory was not guaranteed at that time or any time really until after the Battle of Yorktown, more than five long, bloody years later. Nor was the survival of each signer a certainty should the king prevail.
The Declaration has not only served as the ambitious statement of goals of this country ever since, but inspired other nations, including France, where revolution toppled royalty 13 years later. The Declaration also formed the political foundation of future leaders such as Abraham Lincoln.
For this Independence Day, let’s finish with another Schoolhouse Rock video that’s largely been forgotten, even though it more accurately depicts its subject matter. “Three Ring Government” uses a circus to explain the separation of powers, but it’s a dead-on analogy for federal government these days just on the circus reference alone:
Maybe someone should send this primer to the Oval Office, huh?
Happy Independence Day!