A letter to Thomas Jefferson

[We came across this while rummaging through our files. It was written by Edward Schwartz of the Institute for the Study of Civic Values for Social Policy magazine in 1974]

Mr. Thomas Jefferson
Continental Congress
Independence Hall
Philadelphia, Pa.

Dear Mr. Jefferson:

We have read your “Declaration of Independence” with great interest. Certainly, it represents a considerable undertaking, and many of your statements do merit serious consideration. Unfortunately, the Declaration as a whole fails to meet recently adopted specifications for proposals to the Crown, so we must return the document to you for further refinement. The questions which follow might assist you in your process of revision.

1. In your opening paragraph you use the phrase “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” What are these laws? In what way are they the criteria on which you base your central arguments? Please document with citations from the recent literature.

2. In the same paragraph you refer to the “opinions of mankind.” Whose polling data are you using? Without specific evidence, it seems to us, the “opinions of mankind” are a matter of opinion.

3. You hold certain truths to be “self-evident.” Could you please elaborate. If they are as evident as you claim, then it should not be difficult for you to locate the appropriate supporting statistics.

4. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” seem to be the goals of your proposal. These are not measurable goals. If you were to say that “among these is the ability to sustain an average life expectancy in six of the 13 colonies of at least 55 years, and to enable all newspapers in the colonies to print news without outside interference, and to raise the average income of the colonists by 10 percent in the next 10 years,” these would be measurable goals. Please clarify.

5. You state that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government. …” Have you weighed this assertion against all the alternatives? Or is it predicated solely on the baser instincts?

6. Your description of the existing situation is quite extensive. Such a long list of grievances should precede the statement of goals, not follow it.

7. Your strategy for achieving your goal is not developed at all. You state that the colonies “ought to be Free and Independent States,” and that they are “Absolved from All Allegiance to the British Crown.” Who or what must change to achieve this objective? In what way must they change? What resistance must you overcome to achieve the change? What specific steps will you take to overcome the resistance? How long will it take? We have found that a little foresight in these areas helps to prevent careless errors later on.

8. Who among the list of signatories will be responsible for implementing your strategy? Who conceived it? Who provided the theoretical research? Who will constitute the advisory committee? Please submit an organization chart.

9. You must include an evaluation design. We have been requiring this since Queen Anne’s War.

10. What impact will your program have? Your failure to include any assessment of this inspires little confidence in the long-range prospects of your undertaking.

11. Please submit a PERT diagram, an activity chart, and an itemized budget.

We hope that these comments prove useful in revising your “Declaration of Independence.”

Best Wishes,

Lord North

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