‘When in the Course of Human Events …'; Lawyer Reads Declaration
"'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness....'"
Casper Attorney Marty Scott marked the 246th anniversary of the United States by reading the "unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" adopted on July 4, 1776.
Scott read the 1,300-word founding document to a small crowd of 14 plus a dog at Pioneer Park in central Casper, continuing a decade-long tradition of lawyers in Wyoming conducting public readings of the Declaration.
Before starting the reading, Scott said the Continental Congress deliberated for a while about Thomas Jefferson's proclamation before approving it on July 4, 1776.
However, the actual signing began on Aug. 4 by 56 representatives of the 13 colonies, said Scott, a public defender and president of the Natrona County Bar Association.
Those 54 men knew they were putting their lives on the line, he said. Five of them were captured and tortured by the British military. Two of them died.
George Washington was not among the signers, but he knew that his life was on the line, too, Scott added.
As evil empires go, Great Britain wasn't among the worst. But its treatment of the colonists, enumerated in the Declaration's 27 grievances, got to the point that British rule became intolerable, he said.
While the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, the Declaration made formal the grievances and the act of becoming independent states and eventually a nation.
"America is an idea, isn't it? Ireland is a great country, it’s not an idea. Great Britain is a great country,it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history ..." -- Bono.
Scott agrees with Bono of U2 who said, "America is an idea, isn't it? Ireland is a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain is a great country, but it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world, as one of the greatest ideas in human history."
People are imperfect. Their documents are imperfect, he said.
When the signers of the Declaration of Independence used the word "men," they meant men, not women, Scott said.
And when they wrote this about King George III, "He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected," those doing the electing weren't women, Scott said. "They weren't doing to explicitly to exclude women, they just wouldn't have thought that women needed to be included."
A lot of men weren't doing the electing, either, because they didn't own land, Scott said.
Many of the signers owned slaves.
The second-to-last grievance cited "the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."
But over time, some of those inequities -- in direct opposition to the Declaration's Preamble -- have been corrected, Scott said.
The U.S. Constitution had similar inequities, and yet it included a mechanism of amending it, he said.
America is an idea, Scott said, echoing Bono. "The way we know what that idea is and is supposed to be is by going back to our foundational documents."
One of those who attended the reading, a biker who goes by the name Badger, was a Vietnam veteran from 1970 to 1972, he said, adding that he was born on the Fourth of July.
Badger urged more recitations like that in Pioneer Park on Monday, because Americans are forgetting their heritage.
"People are unaware of what that says," he said.
Happy birthday Badger.
Happy birthday America.