The View From 1776

Why Happiness?

Robert Curry explores the philosophical underpinnings of Jefferson’s famous trilogy of self-evident human rights in the Declaration of Independence.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/27 at 03:46 PM
  1. We also need to keep in mind that the Declaration went through several waves of edits. Some of the changes put a finer edge on things, while others softened it.

    It's interesting, to me, that Curry starts the Enlightment in about 1730. The first big wave of Scottish (and Scots-Irish) immigration started in the late 1600s, after the siege of Londonderry. They were pushed to the hinterlands because of culture clash with the Quakers, desire for a buffer force on the frontier, and desire for inexpensive land. By the winter of 1730-1731, some of them had joined the Germans in moving to the Shenandoah valley.

    William Tennent founded the "log college" in about 1726, and produced several scholars. The College of NJ (Princeton) was chartered 1746 October, and Nassau Hall was built in 1753. 1739, Samuel Blair, a graduate of the log college, started an academy at Fagg's Manor in Chester county PA. 1752, CoNJ grad Robert Smith founded Pequea Academy -- a sort of combination prep school and graduate seminary -- in Lancaster county PA. One of Smith's sons was later president of Princeton. They were all taught to value education highly, and encouraged to spread it.

    In 1768, John Witherspoon was brought from Scotland to head Princeton, redesign the curriculum, introduce more rigor, and raise funds necessary for the improvements. (Witherspoon was apparently not totally in step with Hutcheson, according to a couple sources, but then one of the great things that came out of the Scottish Enlightenment in a robust form was the scientific method in which differing hypotheses could be openly scrutinized and challenged.) Before Witherspoon, graduating classes consisted of fewer than a half-dozen, hardly enough to reach what one would think of as "critical mass" in spreading the memes of the Enlightenment, and yet they were very effective.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/28  at  01:48 PM
  2. Dear jgo,
    Thank you for your comment.
    You raise an important and interesting topic--Scottish immigration and the Founding--that I do not address, though I do share your interest in it.
    It seems clear that there were at least 2 important impacts by the Scots on the Founding--intellectual on the Founders' thinking and demographic on the Revolution itself.
    The authors of the Scottish Invention of America, Democracy and Human Rights offer this striking observation:
    "at least twenty-one of the fifty-six men who...[signed] the Declaration were of Scottish ancestry, including two native Scots, Wilson and Witherspoon...[It was]written in the handwriting of the Ulster Scot, Charles Thomson, printed by another Ulsterman, John Dunlap, proclaimed by a third Orangeman, Capt. John Nixon, while Andrew McNair rang the Liberty Bell."
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/28  at  10:30 PM
  3. Those expectations were decidedly bleak in the face of continual threats by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid to impose higher taxes; to support labor unions
    Posted by looisbrown  on  04/01  at  04:03 AM
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