The Declaration of Independence

by Debra Conley

Each year when we think about the 4th of July, we celebrate the Declaration of Independence and traditionally, Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the final document. It was not an overnight quick pen by Jefferson that brought this document into existence. Many months in the Continental Congress had brought the ideas and words to the forefront after long and fruitless diplomatic attempts to wrestle the colonies from the ever-tightening grip of control and taxation from England.

In reading three different biographies of John Adams and then Thomas Jefferson, it is apparent that it was Adams who was the more copious note taker during the many months of discussion in the CC over the wording of the document. The final draft was left to Jefferson because his writing style was the more eloquent and polished. This is not to indicate that Jefferson’s words were not his own; indeed he agreed in total with the conclusions of Adams and the Congress. The Declaration of Independence was intended to set the tone for not only America’s separation from England, but the idea, still in kernel form, that the colonies would act as one united group. Most historians credit Samuel Adams, cousin to John, with planting the idea first, that the colonies must unite, consolidate its resources, and move forward as one entity. Both John and Samuel Adams were deeply religious men who believed that men were given freedom of conscience in religious matters and desired a land where that freedom was secure. Within the Declaration are no less than three direct references to “nature’s God”, “their (man’s) Creator”, and “protection of Divine Providence” written.

No phrase of history is more distorted or misunderstood than Jefferson’s words to the Danbury, CT, church explaining the “separation between church and state.” If one reads the entire explanation, we also find these words by Jefferson: “Our sentiments are uniformly on the side of religious liberty, that religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals.”