Sunday, October 2, 2011

Jefferson wrote because others needed elsewhere ...

In his book American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, historian Joseph J. Ellis takes us to Phildelphia in summer 1776, when "the writing of the Declaration of Independence did not seem nearly so important as other priorities," such as each state's own constitution. But after Virginia's Richard Henry Lee introduced to Congress a resolution establishing the American colonies to be "free and independent states," a five-member committee -- including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson -- was appointed to draft a document that could implement the Lee proposal. Jefferson's writing skills were recognized, but that reputation was not prime in determining which of them would draft the document. "Jefferson was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence ... in great part because the other eligible authors had more important things to do," writes Ellis.

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