The Declaration of Independence, Updated

The ideologically indescribable historian John Patrick Diggins once offered this version of the Declaration of Independence if it had been written by contemporary intellectuals:

We hold these truths to be historically conditioned: that all men are created equal and mutually dependent; that from that equal creation they derive rights that are alienable and transferable depending on the larger question of needs, among which are the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of virtue in close cooperation with all fellow citizens dedicated to the commonwealth; that to fulfill these needs governments are instituted among men that derives its legitimacy from the active participation of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, the people will refrain from appealing to self-evident truths, there being no original self to which truth must be true, and instead allow the more real experiences of social activity determine the justice of our cause.

We submit a list of grievances knowing full well that our dispute with parliament and the king may only be a matter of language and communication, a failure to keep our paradigms straight. To prove this let all our opinions, our deeply felt sentiments and emotions, be submitted to a candid world not in the form of a declaration but a message whose meaning will require interpretation by historians of future generations. Only they will be in a position to know whether the tyranny we protest derived from rhetoric we borrowed or from the conditions we experienced.

Whereas the very identity of Americans lies in their symbol-forming, language-using nature, whereas we the colonists have no recourse to God, nature, or history to guide our actions, and whereas, therefore, we must rest our case on language and its context, we hereby appeal to parliament to organize a committee of Whig historians to show us the true path to virtue.

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