American Scripture : Making The Declaration Of Independence by Pauline Maier

American Scripture : Making The Declaration Of Independence by Pauline Maier

Author: Pauline Maier
View book: American Scripture : Making The Declaration Of Independence

Pauline Maier presents the Declaration of Independence as a dual force, acting as both the defining expression of American national identity and the ethical guide by which our nation lives. She aptly describes this document as “American Scripture,” and delves into its origins during the demanding and tumultuous struggle for American independence, as well as its transformation into a revered entity in the 19th century.

Maier provides a comprehensive account of the Second Continental Congress, which evolved into an unprecedented national government with more authority than the British Parliament ever held over the colonists. She explores the challenging decision-making process that led to the adoption of Independence, highlighted by the profound impact of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” in shifting the terms of debate. Additionally, she uncovers the intricate political tactics that allowed Congress to reach this monumental decision.

By focusing on the lesser-known local resolutions of 1776, Maier brings us closer to the voice of the people and their reasons for advocating and justifying Independence. Through meticulous investigation, she traces the origins of significant ideas and phrases in the Declaration, untangling the complex story of its drafting, including the contentious group-editing process that upset Thomas Jefferson.

Moreover, Maier delves into the post-signing fate of the Declaration, as it was largely forgotten before resurfacing to support political arguments in the 19th century. Most notably, she emphasizes Abraham Lincoln’s role in ensuring the Declaration’s enduring significance within American society. However, she also cautions against blindly venerating the document, arguing that by treating it as holy writ, we may inadvertently undermine its original purpose and power.

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