James Forsyth

The greatest edit in history

The greatest edit in history
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Seeing as it is the Fourth of July, I hope Coffee Housers will indulge me in a quick post on the Declaration of Independence. The document was, of course, drafted by Thomas Jefferson. But Ben Franklin ran his eye over Jefferson’s draft and made a few changes.

One of them, can I think, lay claim to be the most felicitous edit in history. As Franklin’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, explains, Franklin took, "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable" and changed them to the words now enshrined in history: "We hold these truths to be self-evident." (The picture is of Franklin’s marks.)

The Declaration of Independence remains an inspiring document, the highest expression of country party ideology. If you have a moment today, do re-read it. It is, after all, a document that is, philosophically and intellectually, a product of British ways of thinking.