Thursday, July 4, 2024

Quote of the Day (Woody Holton, on Extending the Declaration Into ‘A Universal Declaration of Human Rights’)

“Phrases that had seemed unimportant to the [Continental] Congress caught the attention of Americans who hated slavery. Before the year 1776 was out, Lemuel Haynes, a free Black soldier serving in the Continental Army, had drafted an essay called ‘Liberty Further Extended.’ He opened by quoting the Declaration of Independence’s offhand assertions that ‘all men are created equal’ and ‘that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.’ By highlighting these claims, Haynes began the process of shifting the focus and meaning of the Declaration of Independence, from Congress’ ordinance of secession to a universal declaration of human rights. That effort was later carried forward by other abolitionists—the only Americans whose initial reactions to the Declaration focused on its equality and rights clauses—joined later by women’s rights advocates and eventually by freedom lovers all over the world.”—Bancroft Prize-winning historian Woody Holton, Liberty Is Sweet: The Hidden History of the American Revolution (2021)

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