Robert L. Breckinridge of Newcastle was kind enough to send a note of correction regarding a misstatement in the editorial included in the Oct. 30 edition of The Lincoln County News. (“Vote”, page 4)
Continuing a long-standing practice, LCN’s editorials are written exclusively by the editor. As such, since April 30, I, Sherwood Olin, am solely responsible for each one. Mr. Breckinridge’s comments offer a corrective note, some historical insight, and raise an interesting question, as such, for illumination and discussion, his comments are printed in full below:
While I share your strong views about the importance of everyone voting in Tuesday’s general election and was pleased to see you encourage all to exercise this important right and duty of citizenship, I have to send you a couple of corrective footnotes to your brief editorial of last week.
The “We the people” to which you refer in your first paragraph does not occur in the Declaration of Independence, the principal authorship of which you correctly attributed to Thomas Jefferson. That document being a statement of revolutionary political theory and an indictment of the tyranny of King George III, was not directed to the American people but rather to all nations of the world in the hope that at least one (the French) would give us recognition and assistance in the war we had undertaken since April, 1775.
Rather “We the People” (sometimes with a comma after “we”) occurs in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, written over a decade later, also in Philadelphia, but not by Thomas Jefferson. He was, when the Constitutional Convention convened in the summer of 1787, serving as minister to France.
A better scholar of U.S history than I may know who proposed the phrase at the convention, but I have never seen credit for it awarded conclusively to any individual member of the Founding Fathers. (The Pennsylvania delegate, Governor Morris, responsible for the final wording of the document is most frequently cited, but the phrase appears to have been widely current.)
Our best source on the convention’s doings is the secretarial notes of James Madison, but I have never explored those for this purpose. Maybe another of your readers can help out on this matter.
Thanks again for your good work,
Robert L. Breckinridge”