Our Declaration : a reading of the Declaration of Independence in defense of equality / Danielle Allen.
New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a Division of W. W. Norton & Company, 2014.
315 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Formatted Contents Note
Part I. Origins Night teaching Patrimony Loving democracy Animating the Declaration Part II. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence? The writer The politicos The Committee The editors The people Part III. The art of democratic writing On memos On moral sense On doing things with words On words and power Part IV. Reading the course of events When in the course of human events Just another word for river One people We are your equals An echo Part V. Facing necessity ...it becomes necessary The laws of nature And nature's god Kinds of necessity Part VI. Matters of principle We hold these truths Sound-bites Sticks and stones Self-interest? Self-evidence Magic tricks The creator Creation Beautiful optimism Part VII. Matters of fact Prudence Dreary pessimism Life's turning points Tyranny Facts? Life histories Plagues Portrait of a tyrant The thirteenth way of looking at a tyrant The use and abuse of history Dashboards On potlucks If actions speak louder than words Responsiveness Part VIII. Drawing conclusions We must, therefore, acquiesce Friends, enemies, and blood relations On oath Real equality What's in a name?
Allen makes the case that we cannot have freedom as individuals without equality among us as a people. Evoking the colonial world between 1774 and 1777, Allen describes the challenges faced by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston--the "Committee of Five" who had to write a document that reflected the aspirations of a restive population and forge an unprecedented social contract. Although the focus is usually on Jefferson, Allen restores credit not only to John Adams and Richard Henry Lee but also to clerk Timothy Matlack and printer Mary Katherine Goddard. Allen also restores the text of the Declaration itself. Its list of self-evident truths does not end with our individual right to the "pursuit of happiness" but with the collective right of the people to reform government so that it will "effect their Safety and Happiness." The sentence laying out the self-evident truths leads us from the individual to the community--from our individual rights to what we can achieve only together, as a community constituted by bonds of equality.
Bibliography, etc. Note
Includes bibliographical references (pages 297-299)and index.