By removing a period from the Declaration of Independence, some historians are trying to put government protection of our god-given rights on par with the rights themselves.
On the original document, right after the phrase “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” there is a period. The thought continues: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
A professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton argues the period is nothing than an errant ink stain and shouldn’t be there. When people read the document with the period, it gives the impression that the three “self-evident” truths are the only truths. But Professor Danielle Allen argues that also a “truth” is the role of government in securing these rights.
“The logic of the sentence moves from the value of individual rights to the importance of government as a tool for protecting those rights,” Ms. Allen said. “You lose that connection when the period gets added.”
Is this an argument rooted in some attempt to Constitutionally justify big government? I’m not sure, but it’s got the attention of the National Archives, which is considering changing their online presentation of the founding document.
There are arguments on both sides – that some of the rough drafts don’t contain a period while others do.
Perhaps it’s just interesting chatter this Fourth of July. Or perhaps it’s something more insidious.