President Bush has been unsuccessful lately in abridging the Constitution with stinging loses in the last month before the Supreme Court and lower courts. He appears now to be attacking the problem at its source: the Founders. In a July 4th speech at Monticello, Bush cleaned up a famous quote by Jefferson by deleting a line that is viewed as critical of religious superstitions and ignorance. The video of the event and the original quote are below.
Here is what Bush said:
Thomas Jefferson understood that these rights do not belong to Americans alone. They belong to all mankind. And he looked to the day when all people could secure them. On the 50th anniversary of America’s independence, Thomas Jefferson passed away. But before leaving this world, he explained that the principles of the Declaration of Independence were universal. In one of the final letters of his life, he wrote, “May it be to the world, what I believe it will be — to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all — the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
However, in the letter to Roger Weightman reflecting on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the last line reads:
May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
The meaning of the chains is quite different in the original. The letter is well known because that anniversary would be Jefferson’s last. Both he and John Adams would die on that same day.
The speech was already controversial due to repeated interruptions by people called Bush as war monger and criminal. For the video, click here.
For a copy of Bush’s whole speech, click here.