You probably have certain ideas about the American Revolution, including the Declaration of Independence, that are rooted in the public memory of these events that have come down to us over 200 years. However, as you’ve discovered from reading The Shoemaker and the Tea Party by Alfred Young, public memory of the Revolution is not static and has changed over time as different groups have appropriated and redefined its meaning to suit their interests, often seeking to link their actions to the revolutionary generation. As Young points out, for example, “[t]he trajectory of the Declaration resembled that of the loss and recovery of the memory of the tea action” (140), and the document ultimately became “American scripture” (as historian Pauline Maier refers to it in her classic study of the Declaration).Thinking like a historian, for this week I’d like you to tackle the memory of the Revolution in general and the Declaration in particular by first reading the Declaration of Independence, and then analyzing and interpreting the quotes by Ferling and Young below, keeping in mind “the barking dog theory” highlighted in the podcast, “Doing History,” featuring Zara Anishanslin, from last week’s materials. (Remember, in the Sherlock Holmes story, the dog didn’t bark. How does that help us to interrogate sources in history?) Then, please address the questions below in bold.“What remained,” after Congress debated and edited Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, “was a forceful, yet lyrical, statement on human rights, including the right to engage in revolutionary acts. In the best remembered portion, the earliest section (and that with which Congress tinkered the least), Jefferson’s literary talents and ideology of human self-dignity and rights shone through. So did his commitment to republicanism. In ringing, euphonious passages he added a sheen to innumerable remonstrances of countless assemblies, but also articulated what many activists must have felt as they participated in trade embargoes, or acted outside the law in city streets, or now as they bore arms on bloodstained battlefields….With simple uncontrived eloquence, Jefferson provided justification for those who hoped for more than a mere escape from London’s tentacles. In mellifluent passages, he set forth a new meaning to the American Revolution. While the creation of the United States was the endgame of resistance to the designs of a faraway regime, its birth–at least in the mind of Jefferson–also was a celebration of human rights and opportunities. Through the Declaration of Independence, the goal the new nation set for itself was the salvation and spread of human rights. Here was vindication for those who wished a real American Revolution that swept out the worst of the old politics and society and ushered in a truly new day” (Ferling, 176).“What a difference if the city [i.e., Boston] had saved and preserved John Hancock’s mansion in 1863. Then visitors might ask what kind of revolution it was that brought together, often literally, the richest man in Boston, a middling artisan like [Paul] Revere, and a poor shoemaker like [George Robert Twelves] Hewes. And perhaps they might go on to ask what the words ‘all men are created equal’ in the Declaration of Independence that Hancock signed so boldly meant to Hewes and the other unequals of colonial America” (Young, 204).Questions:–What do these two quotes by Ferling and Young, as well as the Declaration itself, reveal about the Revolution in general and the Declaration in particular as understood by those who lived through the tumultuous period from 1765-1776, as well as later generations? Utilizing the barking dog theory, what’s missing from the analysis in these quotes?
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