America’s founding document is not the Articles of Confederation, it is not the US Constitution, and it not the Gettysburg Address or any of those other documents and speeches you heard about in 6th grade. Our founding document is quite simply, the Declaration of Independence. The brilliant and concise paper that Thomas Jefferson authored in June of 1776.
Famously signed into an agreement on July 4, 1776, it declared that “People have certain Inalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. All Men are created equal. Individuals have a civic duty to defend these rights for themselves and others.”
Beautiful and powerful words that, unfortunately, are themselves filled with the irony of our history. More ironic yet is that the writing desk on which Jefferson wrote the Declaration was made by an enslaved African, John Hemmings. Hemmings later made Jefferson’s coffin and at Jefferson’s death, Hemmings was one of only five slaves given their freedom. In his will, Jefferson had granted Hemmings his freedom along with the tools of his joiners trade.