The Declaration of Independence: You Really Should Read It

 

The heat in the State House in Philadelphia that July had to have been unbearable. The men who had gathered there to determine the fate of the thirteen American colonies had to choose between sweltering in an enclosed room or opening the windows and subsequently gagging from the stench of the tanneries behind the hall. Philadelphia was a miserable place during the summer and residents who could afford to do so, escaped the city and retired to homes in the country. These dedicated men agreed to forgo creature comforts to help create a government for the struggling rebellion.

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Declaration of Independence from the U.S. National Archives

Five men had been charged by the Second Continental Congress to come up with a protest to send to King George in England that miserable summer.  They are men of legend; John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman from Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston from New York and Thomas Jefferson from Virginia. Two would go on to become Presidents of the United States.  One, Franklin, was in his seventies yet he would return again to the State House in 1787 to lend his wisdom to the drafting of the Constitution of the United States.  It was Jefferson who drafted the original document that was modified by Adams and Franklin before being submitted to Congress on July 1, 1776. Minor modifications were made and on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved.

Fifty-six men eventually signed that document, but not on that July night, as is popularly depicted, but they did sign, putting their names to a document that would have gotten them all killed, had America lost the war. You’ve got to understand that victory that summer of 1776 was far from certain. The Battles of Trenton and Saratoga, where Americans delivered their first real poundings to the British army, were still to come.  Many of the signers suffered tremendously for supporting the resolution for independence that had first been proposed by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia back on June 7th.  John Hancock, according to legend, signed his name big enough for the king to read without needing spectacles.

What they agreed to had never been done before. Never in history had even one colony successfully wrenched away from their governing country. What these members of the Second Continental Congress agreed to do was unthinkable; they proposed to unite thirteen colonies against the only governmental authority any of them had known and they proposed to continue to put their trust in a planter from Virginia named George Washington who had little military experience and had, as of yet, delivered no true victory. Benjamin Franklin is purported to have told them, “we shall hang together or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

The closing paragraph of the Declaration of Independence sums up what these men demanded of King George. Have you ever read it? Take a look:

 “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

As a writer and a historian and more importantly, as an American, Gentlemen, I salute you.

Celebrate the fourth of July by reading the Declaration of Independence. Read it together. Read it and think of those brave men who gathered in Philadelphia and of the women who supported them by keeping their farms and businesses running.  Read it and celebrate a document without equal and think for once that you don’t have to be a Conservative or a progressive to appreciate it or benefit from it.

You can read more about the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives website:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html

The complete transcript of the declaration can be found here:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

If you want to read more about the signers of the declaration, visit the USHISTORY.ORG website:

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/signers/index.htm

 

Jeriann Lane Fisher
Blogger, Historian, American.

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Social Media and Baby Boomers

I surprised a young man the other day when I knew how to create a desktop shortcut for Microsoft Outlook 2010. It took about 5 seconds. I then set up folders and re-arranged some things within the program. That, too, took very little time. Furthermore, I knew exactly what I was doing.

His surprised reaction got me thinking about the way my generation is perceived. We’re at the tail end of the baby boomer generation. We were in Junior High during Watergate and in High School during the end of the Vietnam War. That means we’re the generation who learned that people make a difference in this world and that world can become a better place because one person took a stand.

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I’ve got news for everybody: technology hasn’t passed us by. Just because we remember what a 5-1/4 inch floppy looks like doesn’t mean that we can’t learn all about the cloud.  As a writer, I can appreciate the luxury of storing my documents someplace safe and not dependent on the physical universe.

Just because we (barely) remember when the most efficient business tool was the telex machine, doesn’t mean we can’t embrace social media technology. I happen to like Twitter and I’d be completely lost without my Iphone. Writing can be a lonely profession but it’s nice to know that I can still be connected to my friends and colleagues as we work in our own spaces and in for us fiction writers, our own worlds.  Literally. One hundred and forty characters is just about right to stay in touch without getting too distracted from the fictional reality I’m currently creating.

I’ve been looking for a day job and it’s as brutal out there on the job market as you’ve heard. I’ve got this impression that employers are looking for the perfect person, the one who matches their job description 100%, even down to the proprietary software program that they may be using to conduct their business. How can any person be 100% perfect? I commented to a friend the other day that if dating was like the job market today then nobody would get married because we’d all be looking for the perfect mate, the one that matched every quality we’d listed, the one who didn’t need any training. That doesn’t sound very realistic when you talk about dating, how is hiring an employee any different? I’ve learned –  and forgotten – any number of computer programs. I can learn one more. But too often I don’t even make the final cut for the applicant pool.

I guess this post today is something of a rant. So be it. Maybe the teenage girl who saw how two people who wanted answers to a few questions managed to bring down a president isn’t dead after all. One person can make a difference. Today, with this post, I hope it’s me.  Social media technology is the way we communicate with the world right now. Embrace it. No. My generation must be permitted to embrace it. Please don’t assume that we’re not!

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.net

Misplaced Modifiers – A Source of Entertainment

Let’s start with a quick definition:

 A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies 0r describes.  A dangling modifier is one that is not immediately followed by the subject which it is modifying.

Any writer knows that modifiers can enhance and clarify the subject of the sentence. A misplaced modifier can also turn an otherwise intelligent memo into a string of gibberish, becoming an unintended source of endless entertainment at the expense of the writer.dog with umbrella

Here are a few examples.

She went to the store in the rain to buy food for her dog with the blue umbrella.

Now surely her dog was not the one with the blue umbrella. Or was it? Completely re-writing this sentence is the best way to fix it.

Because of the rain, she took her blue umbrella with her when she went to town to buy food for her dog.

When you begin a sentence with a modifying clause, then the subject should immediately follow. If not, you could give your sentence an unintended meaning.

While taking the long way home, a raccoon ran in front of the car.racoon drive by

 

Who was taking the long way home, surely not the raccoon? Giving the sentence a better subject is the easy fix, so your reader isn’t left with the wrong idea.

While we were taking the long way home, a raccoon ran in front of our car.

Avoiding passive verbs is the easiest way to steer clear of misplaced or dangling modifiers. In our small town paper, I’ve read similar items to this in the police blotter column.

A house on Main Street was reported broken into by the police yesterday.

Did the police really break into that house on Main Street? How awful!  Eliminating that passive voice is the fix.

Somebody broke into a house on Main Street yesterday, the police report.

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by an unseen or unknown agent or object. This is great when you don’t really have all the information or when you want to call attention to the action.  The bill was approved. The driver was cited.

Putting the modifier as close as possible to its subject is the easiest solution.

With their brightly colored feathers, people are drawn to keep parrots as pets.

Feathered people. Who knew?

With their brightly colored feathers, parrots make attractive pets.

Be careful when writing recipes or instructions.

After chilling in the refrigerator for 5 hours, you should be able to eat the salad.

I don’t know about you, but I have no interest in chilling in any refrigerator.  That’s not my idea of a good time.

Chill the salad in the refrigerator for five hours before serving.

And here’s my favorite.

She recognized the man across the street with the cane named Bob

A cane named Bob? How would you fix this sentence?

You can read more about the passive voice here at a great website called A Guide to Grammar & Writing. Check it out.  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index.htm

My thanks to the artist, Cassidy Hollan for her illustrations. I can put you in touch with her if you’d like to see more of her illustrations.

Careful, your Oxford Comma is Showing

When writers get together they talk shop, just like those in other professions. Someone asked me recently if I had an opinion about the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma? I didn’t really want to admit that I had no idea what an Oxford comma was, but I think I mumbled something half-way intelligible. At least, I hope I did.

I did what any self-respecting writer would do – I did my homework. The Oxford comma has a Facebook page. I’m serious about that. Copious websites have been dedicated to the Oxford comma. Who knew? I didn’t. I consulted my copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. The sixteenth edition of the manual is over one-thousand pages long, was released simultaneously online and in print, and is the editor’s bible.

By the way, I just used the Oxford comma. It turns out it’s also known as the serial comma. When a conjunction follows a list of three or more items, then a comma should appear before the conjunction.

Using the Oxford – or serial – comma, can avoid confusion.

They dined on meat, potatoes, and carrots.

There’s no confusion about that sentence, but what about this next one?

They met with the company president, the chief financial officer and executive assistant.

Is the chief financial officer really also the executive assistant? Maybe that’s a bad example, but I think you get the point. The way I was trained, the serial comma was unnecessary. After reading more about it, I’ve changed my mind. So I guess I do have an opinion on the Oxford Comma. I use it. Now I suppose I’m going to have to edit my manuscripts to correct for the serial comma.

The Chicago Manual of Style is available online at the following web site.

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/home.html

On Being a Business Writer


Wikipedia Round About

I feel compelled to vent my frustrations with Wikipedia. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a terrific resource. But I encountered a solid catch-22 with my first entry and I’m still not sure if that reflects on me as a writer or on Wikipedia being confusing just out of sheer spite. If anybody figures that out, be sure to let me know, please.

It went like this. A friend who is an author asked me to write a Wikipedia entry for her. I agreed to help her out as I was eager for the experience. My family always said that my Dad could talk to anybody anytime about anything. Well, I can write three hundred and fifty words about almost anything and I’m up for any chance to stretch my skills. Wikipedia got the better of me. I’m not ashamed to admit that.

Being a novice, I went through the article wizard and submitted my entry for approval. My submission needed editing, but they did not like the user name I selected and said that I could not edit until I changed the user name because they had blocked me. But I couldn’t change the user name without being able to make an edit and I couldn’t because I was blocked. Do you see the problem? In what universe does that make sense? Certainly not mine. I ended up starting an entirely new account and I could not see my pending article until I re-wrote it and the site found my pending article under my old user name.

As I write this, I’m not sure about the status of my resubmission.

I’m too afraid to look.