- Anyone who has been to the National Archives Museum knows that the Declaration of Independence, the U.S Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are nearly impossible to read due to their faded parchments. Now a scholar claims that the Declaration of Independence, which seems to have a period at the end of
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,in fact does not have one. It is just a stray spot.
According to Danielle Allen (who recently published Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality) the
logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights— life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness —
to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights.Accepting, as almost everyone does, that there is a period significantly changes the meaning of the Declaration, she claims. For a summary of arguments on both sides, see The New York Times (2-Jul-2014).
A Stray Spot? or a Period?
During the war ... Washington thought his way to federalism, long before a Federalist Party existed. He believed in a strong central government, supreme over the states; a strong financial system on the British model, with taxes to fund its debt; a flourishing commerce to create prosperity (and to train seamen for a powerful navy, which would in turn protect shipping); and a strong military. And most officers came out of the experience of the Revolution with the same views.