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[35] from the Mecklenburg (N. C.) Declaration of April 20th, preceding, he indignantly repelled; but he always observed that he employed whatever terms best expressed his thought, and would not say how far he was indebted for them to his reading, how far to his original reflections. Even the great fundamental assertion of Human Rights, which he has so memorably set forth as follows: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights ; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; 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, laying its foundations on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness,” was no novelty to those who hailed and responded to it. Three weeks before, the Virginia Convention had unanimously adopted a Declaration of Rights, reported on the 27th of May by George Mason,1 which proclaims that “All men are by nature equally free, and have inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.” See also the Mecklenburg Declaration.

The original draft of the Declaration of American Independence was first communicated by Mr. Jefferson separately to two of his colleagues, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, on the committee chosen by Congress to prepare it; then to the whole committee, consisting, in addition, of Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston; reported, after twenty days gestation, on the 28th of June; read in Committee of the Whole on the 1st of July; earnestly debated and scanned throughout the three following days, until finally adopted on the evening of the 4th. It may safely be said that not an affirmation, not a sentiment, was put forth therein to the world, which had not received the deliberate approbation of such cautious, conservative minds as those of Franklin, John Adams, and Roger Sherman, and of the American People, as well as their representatives in Congress, those of South Carolina and Georgia included.

The progress of the Revolution justified and deepened these convictions. Slavery was soon proved our chief source of weakness and of peril. Of our three millions of people, half a million were the chattels of others; and though all the colonies tolerated, and most of them expressly legalized slaveholding, the slaves, nearly concentrated in the Southern States, paralyzed the energies and enfeebled the efforts of their patriots. Incited by proclamations of royal governors and military commanders, thousands of the negroes escaped to British camps and garrisons, and were there

1 The grandfather of James M. Mason, late U. S. Senator from Virginia, since Confederate Emissary to England. George Mason was one of Virginia's most illustrious sons.

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