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The Character of the Declaration of Independence

( Originally Published 1927 )


THIS immortal State paper, which for its composer was the aurora of enduring fame, was " the genuine effusion of the soul of the country at that time," the revelation of its mind, when, in its youth, its enthusiasm, its sublime confronting of danger, it rose to the highest creative powers of which man is capable. The bill of rights which it promulgates is of rights that are older than human institutions, and spring from the eternal justice that is anterior to the State.

Two political theories divided the world : one founded the Commonwealth on the reason of State, the policy of expediency; the other on the immutable principles of morals. The new Republic, as it took its place among the powers of the world, proclaimed its faith in the truth and reality and unchangeableness 0f freedom, virtue and right.

The heart of Jefferson, in writing the Declaration, and of Congress in adopting it, beat for all humanity; the assertion of right was made for the entire world of mankind, and all coming generations, without any exception whatever ; for the proposition which admits of exceptions can never be self-evident. As it was put forth in the name of the ascendant people of that time, it was sure to make the circuit of the world, passing everywhere through the despotic countries of Europe ; and the astonished nations, as they read that all men are created equal, started out of their lethargy, like those who have been exiles from childhood, when they suddenly hear the dimly remembered accents of their mother tongue.

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