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Worst political re-write of all time

Posted on 2013-01-08
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Last Modified: 2015-02-25
What is the WORST political re-write of all time?

It's clear to me that it's in the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson actually wrote "We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable".

(Ben) Franklin et al. converted it into the more pasty, and secular, "self-evident", apparently to remove any religious connotation.

How "self-evident" is it to Castro, Chavez and Kim Jong-un?  Or would it have been to Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mao, etc.?

Besides, if it were really "self-evident", it wouldn't have taken tens of thousands of years for someone to state it that way!

No, it really was "sacred": something NO man could ever overturn or supercede.
Question by:Scott Pletcher
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Anthony Russo earned 68 total points
ID: 38756820
>>How "self-evident" is it to Castro, Chavez and Kim Jong-un?  Or would it have been to Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mao, etc.?

How "sacred" is it to Castro, Chavez and Kim Jong-un?  Or would it have been to Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mao, etc.?

>>Besides, if it were really "self-evident", it wouldn't have taken tens of thousands of years for someone to state it that way!

Besides, if it were really "sacred", it wouldn't have taken tens of thousands of years for someone to state it that way!

(Easy enough to swap out which word any person believes to be the bad word.)

>>No, it really was "sacred": something NO man could ever overturn or supercede.

So is it something that has been overturned or superceded? Isn't that something that you claim has happened with governments, including our own? Doesn't that right there show that "self-evident" was the correct term to use and "sacred" was incorrect?
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 36 total points
ID: 38757015
Scott, you should not run for political office... where others, your 'advisors', want you to re-word things All the time.  I doubt that we ever hear the 'original' versions of anything that is uttered in politics.

"No, I think it would sound better and attract more votes if you said Please vote me because I need to be your leader for the next 2/4 years."
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by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 38757190
>> How "sacred" is it to Castro, Chavez and Kim Jong-un?  Or would it have been to Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mao, etc.? <<

But "sacred" by definition is NOT open to interpretation, whereas "self-evident" surely is.  Yes, they could ignore it, as they can with anything, but they cannot legitimately disclaim it.

Everyone pretends not to see the related phrase later:

"endowed by their Creator with ..."

"Sacred" goes with "Creator", "self-evident" does not.

Without a "Creator", there is no genuine claim to any "rights", as any "rights" man alone can bestow he can also remove.  

Edmund Burke used "natural rights", which is not as strong as "sacred" but is still vastly better than self-evident.
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tliotta earned 32 total points
ID: 38757910
I haven't checked to see what evidence there is that Ben Franklin made the change nor that it was a change to Thomas Jefferson's words, but I don't mind granting those as true for this question. However, we might as easily take a step farther back and look at the rewrite that was done by Thomas Jefferson. Given the granted conditions, we might ask which was the greater "rewrite".

Consider, for one example, the opening to the Virginia Declaration of Rights, from which Jefferson drew much of his opening paragraphs:
A DECLARATION OF RIGHTS made by the representatives of the good people of Virginia, assembled in full and free convention which rights do pertain to them and their posterity, as the basis and foundation of government .

Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain 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.

Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.

Section 3. etc.
For the rest of the Declaration of Independence, you might look up the text of the First Virginia Constitution and compare the various opening 'Whereas' clauses with those in the later Declaration. Jefferson didn't exactly make up the Declaration out of thin air in his own words.

You might also read John Adams' The Foundation of Government from a few months earlier, a letter that was Adams' response to being asked to draw up a plan for a new government, in which he places the defining purpose in the ends achieved by government rather than in any inherent or sacred or self-evident right. Or James Wilson's The Legal Right to Form a Government where no credit at all is given to any higher authority but rather that three specific maxims are listed:
That all power was originally in the people --
that all the powers of the government are derived from them --
that all power, which they have not disposed of, still continues theirs --
Opposition letters and essays from Rev. Charles Inglis and from Rev. William Smith, rebutting either points made by Thomas Paine in Common Sense or points assumed as motivation for calls to create some 'Declaration of Independence', those contain no appeals to senses of a higher power. Perhaps the biggest related concern over severing ties with England in any of those was the possibility of falling under the influence of France or Spain. That might mean being ruled by a Catholic (shudder) king! And since we're Protestants, we can't have that.
By what means, or at what price, is this marvelous revolution in the system of politics, religion, and liberty to be accomplished? How are these two powers to divide these colonies between them? Is their guardianship to be joint or separate? Under whose wing is Pennsylvania to fall -- that of the most Catholic or most Christian King?
Even in many of the more important and influential writings from American religious leaders in opposition to an attempt at independence, there is little or no reliance on any appeal to a belief in a 'God'-given authority. There is, however, some concern over a government that somehow interferes with personal choice of religion or that enforces a religion that is not wanted by an individual.

You might review the Instructions for a Declaration of Independence from the town of Malden in response to a request by the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The House collected responses to send to their delegates to the drafting of the Declaration. Or a similar letter from Boston to its delegates in the provincial General Assembly of May, 1776. These letters contain no religious references at all. (I'd quote some, but there's nothing relevant. The only way to show how important "sacred" is would be if it was somehow included and it wasn't.)

Such letters are closer to "the people" than solemn writings intended for the whole of American society at the time. They perhaps better illustrate a realistic perspective than one from official proceedings where it's deemed socially necessary to give a nod of acknowledgement to those who wield religious power.

The initial resolution was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 2nd. The introduction to the resolution included "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." The introduction of the resolution was back on June 7th, by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia.

In short, Jefferson might have used a specific word such as "sacred". If he did, there is little reason to think it wasn't a rewrite of his own that wasn't overwhelmingly appreciated. Clearly it wasn't approved for the final document. And if Ben Franklin had the power within the assembly to make changes, and this change wasn't undone, then we have what was approved by the majority.

The responsibility of drafting a Declaration was given to a committee that included at least John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did most of the actual writing, but it's clear that he did little more than "cut & paste" many parts of previous writings into a single document. Adams and Franklin did suggest minor changes, and some further alterations were made after it was presented out of committee to the assembled Congress.

Now, today...

We all 'know' that the Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson. Because of our perceived beauty in the document, we raise Thomas Jefferson up to heights far above mere mortal man. Yet, there's not a lot of evidence that he acted much beyond being a recorder and transcriber at that Congress, at least not much beyond others who contributed more to actual content. If his words were finally changed, I suspect the changes were for the better and were deemed by those present to be for the better.

IOW, what's the big deal?

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ozo earned 32 total points
ID: 38758340
>> How "sacred" is it to Castro, Chavez and Kim Jong-un?  Or would it have been to Genghis Khan, Stalin, Mao, etc.? <<

But "sacred" by definition is NOT open to interpretation, whereas "self-evident" surely is.  Yes, they could ignore it, as they can with anything, but they cannot legitimately disclaim it.
It is self-evident to me that "sacred" has been open to widely varying interpretations.
"undeniable" seems much less open to interpretation, but then,
How "undeniable" is it to Castro, Chavez, et al.?
Or one could say Yes, they could ignore its self-evidence, as they can with anything...

Which is all moot, anyway, since the claim was that We hold these truths, not Genghis Khan, or anyone else.
Nor did Jefferson or Franklin or any of the other signatories claim that Stalin and Mao would pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred (or is that self-evident) honor.

There may well be an argument that an earlier version was superior to a subsequent re-write by some criterion, but for worst of all time, surely one could find more egregious examples.
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Author Comment

by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 38759253
>> Jefferson didn't exactly make up the Declaration out of thin air in his own words. <<

He never claimed to, nor did I.

However, Jefferson himself wrote the "Virginia Declaration of Rights"; indeed, he was so proud of this that he insisted it be engraved on his tombstone.

>> since the claim was that We hold these truths, not Genghis Khan, or anyone else. <<

NO: We hold these truths ... that ALL men ....

If you read their arguments surrounding it, it's clear that Jefferson et al. are talking literally about ALL men, not just Americans.  (The Constitution was for America alone, based on the ideas of the DoI, but the DoI was for ALL men.)

He wanted a new paradigm of rights.  In the existing / traditional way of thinking, the Creator granted all rights came to the Monarch, and upon his death, to his legitimate successors.  The Monarch then granted whatever "rights" ("permissions" really) he felt necessary to his subjects.  Thus, to oppose the Monarch was not only to commit treason, but to commit blasphemy, which was considered much worse.  After all, treason only got you killed in this life, blasphemy damned you for eternity.

Jefferson said: "That's not the right power flow.  The real power flow is: Creator grants all to every man at his birth.  Men then give limited powers to govt to do what is absolutely necessary.  They never fully give away their Creator-given rights, even to govt."

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by:Anthony Russo
Anthony Russo earned 68 total points
ID: 38759909
That was very well explained Scott and I fully understand your point, which I did not at the start of this question. It was a massive re-write that changed what Jefferson was trying to state.


Franklin was a man of science, and not religion. Perhaps it was no accident that he did not believe in a Creator and if you do not believe in a Creator, then Jefferson's words would have no inherent meaning to you. Franklin in his wisdom might have changed this so that others in the new nation they were forming who also might no believe in a creator could still hold some importance to the words.

This is not a statement to start an argument on whether there is a Creator or not, but it would simply mean Jefferson's words could mean to an atheist "rights endowed by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man" (as they feel a Creator is fictional) and have no meaning to them. Franklin's rewrite will always have meaning whether someone is atheist or not.

This however brings up your point about rights by men being able to be taken away, while rights by a Creator are not. To an atheist, no issue. To a believer in a Creator, this is a massive change.

One group was going to be upset either way and it looks like Franklin's words won out in the end.
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by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 38760191

I stated that Jefferson wrote the "Virginia Declaration of Rights" and had it put on his tombstone.

Actually it was the "Statute of Virginia for religious freedom".

Mason wrote the VDoR.  

Unquestionably Jefferson borrowed liberally from VDoR and from other documents.  That was de rigeur at the time.  No one at the convention expected him to draft such a document from scratch in such a short period of time.  That said, it's also clear to me then that Jefferson -- who was not especially religious, certainly not to the level of Adams -- deliberately substituted "sacred" over the secular words of the VDoR.

In fact, others at the convention foisted the Preamble upon Jefferson because they expected it to be very little-known compared to the main document itself.  But Jefferson wrote it so beautifully, and succinctly, that he made it unforgettable.  

Just like Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (in which Lincoln himself said, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here" (that quote from memory, so could be a little off) ... then for DECADES afterward schoolchildren had to memorize the whole thing!).
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BigRat earned 32 total points
ID: 38774141
>>What is the WORST political re-write of all time?

Is the rewrite, of which you are complaining Scott, actually that much of a betrayal?

Castro wanted to free Cubans from the corrupt mafia run regime of Bastita.

Chavez wanted to use the oil monies of Venezuela for the people not foreigners.

Kim-Il-Sung wanted to free Korea of the Japanese invaders.

How many revolutionaries have ended up as dictatorships?

Gorbatchov's Perestroika has ended up as Putin's secrecy.
The Shah of Persia's secret police has ended up as a islamic theoracy.
Egypt will probably do the same.

No, the worst "rewrite" is NOT in the Declaration of Independance. And besides, the British in those days were not that bad.
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by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 38774642
Castro wanted POWER; the rest was lies.  If that was all he wanted, he could of stepped down after his first 4 years.

Ditto for Chavez and the rest.

ALL tryants claim to helping others.  And the "useful idiots" of the world believe them.  Many still hail Stalin as a great "reformer" in Russia.

Ironically, the British really weren't that bad.  Very mild in fact compared to the exorbitant Dem taxes we have now.
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ID: 40177835
> Worst political re-write of all time: Dick:

Cheney's recent screed the now infamous quote:

"Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

Republican Senator Rand Paul countered Cheney's charges:

I don't blame President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.

While Paul appears to have come to the aid of the president, it was also a salvo fired toward former Secretary of State, and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton
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by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 40180701
Rand Paul is so desperate to become POTUS he'll lie like a Democrat in an attempt to capture "swing" voters.  He's deluding himself: as with McCain, the press will pretend to like him now, esp. when he's bashing Repubs, but will viciously attack him every way possible, with all lies possible, if he wins the Repub nomination.
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ID: 40182082
desire to send all  troops to Iraq? (or on to Iran, then Syria? then ...)
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ID: 40251341
Introducing The Dumbest Column Ever Written,
Courtesy Big-Government Shill Michael Arceneaux - By V. Saxena - July 6, 2014
In the column titled “Seriously? One Third Of Americans Think Obama Is Worst President Since WWII,”

“I’m willing to bet if these same number of Americans who find Obama to be the worst president from World War II also deny climate change, are staunchly conservative, think Obama was born in a Kenyan hut, and are for certain that he’s trying to turn America into Hitler’s Germany. I’m also quite sure that in the future, Obama will be remembered for his historical moves on health care, climate change, gay rights, ending the war in Iraq, among other things. He’ll get an asterisk for improving the economy as best he could thanks to Republican obstruction in Congress. Shame on him for the use of drones, but I digress.

All this poll proves is American voters have short term memories and don’t keep up with the news, thus are prone to fall in to fables about the current state of the country and answer accordingly. Word to FOX News.”
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by:Scott Pletcher
ID: 40251502
>>  “Seriously? One Third Of Americans Think Obama Is Worst President Since WWII,” <<

I know.  Incredibly hard to believe 2/3 of Americans are too stupid to realize how awful he is!
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ID: 40252763
Also from the same site :-

"Unbelievable: Illegals Being Permitted To Fly Commercial Airlines Without Showing Any Identification"

This attracted me, as the little word "on" was missing. But I can image a good portion of the American public not wanting to fly on aeroplanes any more because they think the pilot is an illegal. (I mean they can't be any dumber than the one third thinking Obama bad or the two thirds not being aware of it?)

And another one from this site :-

"Foolish Obama Dragging U.S. Towards WW III"

This one's about the Ukraine. And it's perfectly obvious that these people don't get it. It seems that bombing a few ISIS idiots is much more preferable to standing up to someone your own size.

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