We hold these truths to be self-evident in the Merrimack Valley (2024)

Gunpowder and words.

The nation hails the Fourth of July each year with fireworks and public readings of the Declaration of Independence, as it has from the start.

Ever since the Continental Congress adopted the document on July 4, 1776, written by Thomas Jefferson, and had it printed the night of the Fourth by John Dunlap, also in Philadelphia.

The delegates saw it fit to spread the word far and wide through public readings announcing the 13 colonies’ break from Great Britain and birth as the United States of America.

The reading tradition continues in North Andover and Lawrence on Thursday, and on July 13, some 35 miles northeast in Exeter, New Hampshire at the American Independence Museum.

There the dispatch arrives as it did on July 16, 1776, by horseback, and is read by a descendent of the original reader, 22-year-old John Taylor Gilman.

In 1776 a copy of the 1,320-word Declaration — which takes 10-15 minutes to recite — arrived to Exeter, the state’s Revolutionary War capital, two weeks after it was adopted in Philadelphia.

But not until after the horse-back carrier mistakenly delivered it to Portsmouth, the state’s former capital, says the museum’s Jennifer Carr.

Few copies exist

Only 26 copies of the Dunlap Broadside, a poster-like document, are known to exist.

One was found in 1985 in the attic of the Ladd-Gilman House, 1 Governors Lane, Exeter, home to the American Independence Museum.

The museum displays the Broadside once a year (the Saturday closest to July 16) at its American Independence Festival, Carr said.

In 2021 a Dunlap Broadside sold for $43 million at auction.

Unlike fireworks, the Declaration doesn’t whistle and explode in color, but it has inspired bold thought, action and change in 248 years.

“The words of the Declaration really speak to the spirit of our American identity,” Carr says. “We have always had a really independent spirit, even before the Declaration was born.”

Around the time of the American Revolution the language of the Declaration inspired 13 enslaved people in New Hampshire to petition the court to be freed from bondage, Carr said.

The court tabled the cases.

North Andover event

In North Andover, the world-changing words in the Declaration will be read aloud by David Kress of the North Andover Historical Society and State Rep. Francisco Paulino.

They will be speaking from the Common bandstand at the “Fourth of July Declaration of Independence Recitation.” event, at 11 am.

Recitation coordinator John Lennhoff and narrator Joanna Kerr, the North Andover Historical Society executive director, say the program intends to celebrate but more so to educate the guests, focusing on history — people’s freedom and certain people’s lack of freedom when the Declaration was signed.

The proclaimed self-evident truth, “that all men are created equal,” applied only to land-owning white males at the time, Lennhoff says.

The event will also present excerpts from Inter Caetera, a Papal Bull from Pope Alexander VI to the king and queen of Spain on May 4, 1493.

The decree gave them the religious and political right to take over land where non-Christian people lived, an exclusive right to colonize and “discover” the New World.

Other oratory at the North Andover event, presented by The Friends of the 1836 Meeting House (North Parish building) and North Andover Historical Society, will include the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (read by town moderator Mark DiSalvo).

There will also be excerpts from “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass (read by Albert Pless, town of Reading director of Office of Equity and Social justice) and “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr. (read by Ralph Bledsoe, Andover High School physics and chemistry teacher).

“If you look back in history, there were many eloquent statesmen and patriots and activists who told the truth about what Americans needed to hear,” Lennhoff says.

Musical entertainment will include selections by the Choral Majority, Rockwood Taylor and Bill Putnam & John Chang.

Lawrence in costume

In Lawrence, the Declaration is the cornerstone of the 11 a.m. “Old-Fashioned 4th of July”celebration at Lawrence Heritage State Park, 1 Jackson St.

For 17 years, attendees, some in patriotic costumes, have lined up to declare the causes that impelled our separation from the mother country.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Lawrence Heritage State Park and organized by park interpreter Richard Padova and his wife, Lori Padova. Some years they dress up as John and Abigail Adams.

The Old-Fashioned 4th includes speeches by local officials, a parade around the block, a singing of the “National Anthem,” veterans raising an American flag on the pole outside the Heritage Park Visitor Center and hot dogs.

Also this year, the event will feature the Synchrony Barbershop Quartet of Lowell.

Padova, a historian with an interest in presidential elections, and who teaches at Merrimack College, says there seems to be a bit more enthusiasm or patriotic spirit for the Declaration reading in a presidential election year. People are more likely to reflect on the civic duty of casting a vote in the election, he says.

Carr also thinks the reading offers a more profound moment for listeners in an election year.

Mood of the times

Asked what she thinks the mood was like at readings of the Declaration in the weeks after July 4, 1776, Carr says she thinks it was likely mixed, depending on where it was read.

The country still had many people loyal to the crown. The Exeter crowd of 1776 was likely more patriotic, she said.

A first-person account from the signing of the Declaration of Independence described the mood as solemn, with some feeling as if they were signing their death warrant, says Carr, who has a master’s degree in history from Southern New Hampshire University.

“The men who signed were committing high treason,” she says.

Later readings, after America won the war, were upbeat, triumphant. Celebrations included bell ringing, musket and cannon fire, food and. music.

Independence festival

The Exeter Independence festival and reading typically draws thousands of people.

Archival news accounts in the late 1800s describe readings of the Declaration as old fashion.

“The old fashion of reading the Declaration of independence might be revived with profit,” states the July 4, 1890 edition of the Springfield (Massachusetts) Daily Republican.

The revival will continue Thursday in the Merrimack Valley with free and family friendly events, and elsewhere, including the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and George Washington’s Headquarters Grounds at Morristown National Historical Park in Morristown, New Jersey.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident in the Merrimack Valley (2024)


What does "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" mean? ›

According to Abraham Lincoln, the founders did not mean that "all were equal in color, size, intellect, moral developments, or social capacity" but rather that everyone was equal in having "certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

What three truths were self-evident? ›

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.

What is the first self-evident truth brainly? ›

Explanation: The first self-evident truth mentioned in the Declaration of Independence is that all men are created equal. The second self-evident truth is that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.

What is the best meaning of the phrase we hold these truths to be self-evident? ›

The “truths” are held to be unquestionable and beyond debate, since their truth is said to be obvious. They can be stated without elaborating or defending them.

Who said we find these truths to be self-evident? ›

Quote by Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that a...”

What document starts with we hold these truths to be self-evident? ›

Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.

What does it mean that truths that are self-evident? ›

A fact or situation that is self-evident is so obvious that there is no need for proof or explanation.

What is a self-evident truth called? ›

Definitions of self-evident truth. noun. an assumption that is basic to an argument. synonyms: basic assumption, constatation. type of: assumption, supposal, supposition.

What does endowed by their creator with unalienable rights mean? ›

The Founders believed that natural rights are inherent in all people by virtue of their being human and that certain of these rights are unalienable, meaning they cannot be surrendered to government under any circ*mstances.

What is the meaning of unalienable rights? ›

The unalienable rights are those which can never be taken away, either voluntarily or involuntarily. These ideas were first articulated in the Enlightenment, which was a movement from the 16th through 18th centuries focused on challenging tradition and discovering universal truths.

What did Thomas Jefferson mean when he said all men were created equal? ›

When Thomas Jefferson penned 'all men are created equal,' he did not mean individual equality, says Stanford scholar. When the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, it was a call for the right to statehood rather than individual liberties, says Stanford historian Jack Rakove.

What does that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mean? ›

Being endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights, means the rights come from the Creator and not from Government. Unalienable rights are endowed, self-evident and not to be taken by Government, but secured by Government. Federal Government has three branches, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.

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