positions, have echoed the sneer.
The essence of the objection to Jefferson
's platform lies of course in his phrase, “all men are created equal,” with the subsidiary phrase about governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
Editors and congressmen and even college professors have proclaimed themselves unable to assent to these phrases of the Declaration, and unable even to understand them.
These objectors belong partly, I think, in Jefferson
's category of “nervous persons” --“anti-republicans,” as he goes on to define them--“whose languid fibres have more analogy with a passive than an active state of things.”
Other objectors to the phrase “all men are created equal” have had an obvious personal or political motive for refusing assent to the proposition.
But “no intelligent man,” says one of Jefferson
's biographers, “has ever misconstrued it [the Declaration] except intentionally.”
Nobody would claim today that Thomas Jefferson
's statement of the sentiments and reasons for the independence of the thirteen British colonies in 1776 was an adequate handbook of political wisdom, fit for all the exigencies of contemporary American democracy.
It is not that.