Happy Independence Day – 2011

Over at Crosswalk, I posted the full text of the Declaration of Independence. Yesterday, my rising 5th grader and I read and discussed it, and I asked him if he had read it before in school. He said — to my and the school’s shame — he didn’t remember ever reading it before.
David Barton says that the schools today teach that the American Revolution was only about “taxation without representation.” I don’t know if that is true, but he says that the Declaration was about much more than that, citing religious freedom, judicial activism and slavery as principle reasons.

An obvious example of the secularization of history occurs each year around the Fourth of July. Americans are taught that “taxation without representation” was the reason America separated from Great Britain; yet “taxation without representation” was only reason number seventeen out of the twenty-seven reasons given in the Declaration of Independence – it was not even in the top half, yet it’s all that most ever hear. Never mentioned today are the numerous grievances condemning judicial activism – or those addressing moral or religious or other issues.

Barton says that Samuel Adams and Charles Carroll got involved in the revolution to seek religious freedom and that the

…desire to end slavery in America was a significant motivation not only for Franklin and Rush but also for a number of others; but the end of slavery in America could be achieved only if they separated from Great Britain – which they were willing to do (and six of the thirteen colonies began abolishing slavery following the separation).

I have no doubt that some signers of the Declaration opposed slavery but I think it would not be accurate to say that ending the practice was a motivation for all of them. Great Britain outlawed the practice before we did and we fought a horrible war to decide the issue.
Barton recently told Focus on the Family that

As a matter of fact, of the 56 individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence, 27 had seminary degrees. That’s not bad for a bunch of atheists to have seminary degrees. (Laughter) That’s fairly impressive. I mean, that’s like saying the U.S. Congress today is made up of half pastors.

If you count Harvard, Yale and the College of William and Mary, you might get close to those numbers but it is misleading to say that these were seminaries in the theological sense. These schools were founded to help seek religious aims, in addition to providing a well rounded education. By the 1700s, these schools were liberal arts institutions and those who attended were not of necessity studying to be pastors. Only one signer — John Witherspoon — held that vocation. Calling the degrees “seminary degrees” is surely misleading since the first theological seminary in the United States was not formed until 1808 at Andover, MA.
And so, it seems good, to offset neglect from some and zeal from others, to read the Declaration, especially today. Here again is the link at Crosswalk, and then to the government source as well.