By Alan W. Cohen
There is no doubt that certain people in high places want to cast doubt on anything that is America, particularly our founding. But this latest pronouncement coming from two Harvard professors is over the top nuts.
You may have heard on the news that someone in Great Britain discovered a parchment document purported to be an original copy, meaning a true hand written copy of the Declaration of Independence. Assuming that it is a true document, and no one has explained how it could be a true document, what is different from the original? Are there passages different? No. Does the document contain different words? No. Did different people sign the document? No.
So what is the big deal? It turns out that the order of signatures are different. So what? We all know how the Declaration came to be. Continental Congress met and each colony voted. The Declaration went through the mill until all thirteen colonies voted to consent. So, now two Harvard professors are claiming that there is some special meaning to the order of the signatures. In the original, the signers were organized by their newly founded states. In this new copy, they are randomly signed. Before getting into the weeds of what that difference might signify, lets imagine that this document is authentic. How would it have come about? After signing the original, the Continental Congress needed to spread the word, and that required copies. Since no copy machines were then available, scribes copied the document by hand, and then asked the signers to redo their respective John Hancocks. Therefore, there was no purpose behind the order of signatures for the copies. The scribes probably had to chase down the signors, who just signed somewhere on the page.
But two Harvard professors have declared some hidden meaning behind this difference, that it must mean that federalism is a fiction. Alas, the Founders signed as one nation, not as a collection of states. And, your point is? Doesn’t the Constitution begin We the People of the United States? Of course, it is from the people. The Declaration itself is about alienable rights and the pursuit of happiness, not of the states, but of the people who live in those states. Those same people divvied up authority between the federal and state governments, reserving those inalienable rights for themselves. That is what we call federalism.
I am beginning to wonder what they are smoking at Harvard.
Alan W. Cohen is an author and blogger, retired from the practice of law after 25 years. His new book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce is available on Amazon.
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