What makes you happy?
I produced the video below, "The Unanimous Declaration of Independence", to briefly show the painstaking three year process of, hand engraving and paper making, that was undertaken by artist, José-Maria Cundin, to create his facsimile of the most important document in American history. However, there is so much more to this story of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, that I wanted to share.
For those of us that are blessed to have been born in this country, we can easily take for granted the simple things that are afforded to us that make us free ... The ability to publicly speak our opinions, even against our government, the freedom to worship and to peaceably assemble, all without the fear of being imprisoned.
Now imagine what life must have been like for someone that was born in Bilbao, the Basque Country of Spain in the 1930's, under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Franco had a reputation for being a harsh and vindictive leader, that would often have his political opponents executed, starved or overworked.
When Cundin eventually immigrated to the United States in 1958, the proclamation of freedom in the Declaration of Independence greatly appealed to Cundin ...
"When I first read that phrase in the Declaration, I was struck by emotion. I have never encountered something so poetic and human as that, the pathos and drama, it was like finding the words of a new gospel. It is enlightening. There is speculation that these words were used to replace a statement more committed to the Divinity"
All of us should have this same emotion and passion for the Declaration. We should read and celebrate the words everyday.
Fifty six men committed ... with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, as they mutually pledged to each other their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor ... when they signed the Declaration.
It's important to note that there is more than a single document, but rather various versions, that are each unique and just as significant.
1: Hand Written Draft ... On June 11, 1776, the Continental Congress created a committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, to draft a Declaration of Independence. The original final draft written by Jefferson is located in the Library of Congress.
2: Engrossed & Signed Parchment ... After the final draft was approved by Congress on July 2, 1776, it was ordered to be engrossed (written formally in a large clear script, as a deed or other legal document) on parchment and signed by the delegates. The majority of them did so on August 2, 1776. The document is located in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
3: The Dunlap Broadside ... A Philadelphia printer, John Dunlap, was given the task of printing the first broadside (a large sheet of paper printed on one side only, used as posters, announcing events or proclamations). They were printed by July 5th and distributed to the Committees of Safety in every colony, as well as to, General George Washington. The only names printed were John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, Secretary and John Dunlap, printer. There are 25 existing Dunlap copies. In 2000, a copy sold at auction for $8.1 million.
4: Various Newspaper Printings ... Between July 6 and July 26 many newspapers throughout the colonies printed the text of the declaration. The first to do so was The Pennsylvania Evening Post. There are only 19 copies known to exist, one of which recently sold for $632,500.
5: Manuscript Copies ... Are simply handwritten copies of the final, approved text. The most authoritative copy would be that by Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress.
6: The Goddard Broadside ... A second "official" broadside was requested to be printed by the Continental Congress. This time by female printer Mary Katherine Goddard. Her copy included the names of the signers. A limited print run, copies were sent to each of the states for their official archives. In 1949, only nine copies of the Goddard broadside were known to exist.
7: William J. Stone Engraving ... In 1820, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, noticing the poor faded condition of the engrossed signed copy, commissioned William J. Stone, to create an engraving of the document. It took Stone three years to complete his engraving on a copper plate and printed on vellum (prepared animal skin used as a material for writing on). 200 copies were printed, 51 are to known to exist. A copy sold for $597,500 in 2012.
8: José-Maria Cundin Engraving ... In the late 1980's, Cundin set out to re-create ancient techniques of calligraphy, hand-engraving and paper-making to make an heirloom edition of the Declaration of Independence. Just as Stone had done, a plate was hand engraved, however, brass instead of copper was used. In addition, in place of vellum, heavy weight hand made paper was created. The first two prints were presented to President George H.W. Bush and King Juan Carlos of Spain in 1992.
In January of 1777, John Hancock, sent Goddard Broadside copies to each of the states, with the following message ...
"As there is not a more distinguished Event in the History of America, than the Declaration of her Independence--nor any that in all Probability, will so much excite the Attention of future Ages, it is highly proper that the memory of that Transaction, together with the Causes that gave Rise to it, should be preserved in the most careful Manner that can be devised."
Hancock was correct, the document should be preserved for future ages and I believe Cundin has achieved this request. This printing, unlike the originals, will last for generations.
Now ask yourself the question again ... what makes you happy? Hopefully, you'll agree with me that having the freedom to be ourselves and pursue a life of happiness is what makes us happy.
Wishing you peace, joy and happiness!