July 20, 1776
Mr. Thomas Jefferson
Dear Mr. Jefferson:
We have read your "Declaration of Independence" with great interest.
Certainly, it represents a considerable undertaking, and many of your
statements do merit serious consideration. Unfortunately, the Declaration
as a whole fails to meet recently adopted specifications for proposals to
the Crown, so we must return the document to you for further refinement.
The questions which follow might assist you in your process of revision.
- In your opening paragraph you use the phrase "the Laws of Nature and
Nature's God." What are these laws? In what way are they the criteria
on which you base your central arguments? Please document with
citations from the recent literature.
- In the same paragraph you refer to the "opinions of mankind." Whose
polling data are you using? Without specific evidence, it seems to
us, the "opinions of mankind" are a matter of opinion.
- You hold certain truths to be "self-evident." Could you please
elaborate. If they are as evident as you claim, then it should not be
difficult for you to locate the appropriate supporting statistics.
- "Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" seem to be the goals of
your proposal. These are not measurable goals. If you were to say that
"among these is the ability to sustain an average life expectancy in
six of the 13 colonies of at least 55 years, and to enable all newspapers
in the colonies to print news without outside interference, and to
raise the average income of the colonists by 10 percent in the next
10 years," these would be measurable goals. Please clarify.
- You state 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. ..." Have you weighed this assertion
against all the alternatives? Or is it predicated solely on the baser
- Your description of the existing situation is quite extensive. Such a
long list of grievances should precede the statement of goals, not
- Your strategy for achieving your goal is not developed at all. You
state that the colonies "ought to be Free and Independent States," and
that they are "Absolved from All Allegiance to the British Crown." Who
or what must change to achieve this objective? In what way must they
change? What resistance must you overcome to achieve the change?
What specific steps will you take to overcome the resistance?
How long will it take? We have found that a little foresight in these
areas helps to prevent careless errors later on.
- Who among the list of signatories will be responsible for implementing
your strategy? Who conceived it? Who provided the theoretical research?
Who will constitute the advisory committee? Please submit an organization
- You must include an evaluation design. We have been requiring this
since Queen Anne's War.
- What impact will your program have? Your failure to include any
assessment of this inspires little confidence in the long-range
prospects of your undertaking.
- Please submit a PERT diagram, an activity chart, and an itemized budget.
We hope that these comments prove useful in revising your "Declaration of
Due to Edward Schwartz of the
Institute for the Study of Civic Values.
It originally appeared in Social Policy,
July/August 1974, Vol. 5, No. 2.