We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
This is perhaps the most well known passage in our Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776.
But what do we really know of life in 1776? I was intrigued by an article I saw in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, and bought a Kindle book:
WHAT AMERICA WAS REALLY LIKE IN 1776
by Thomas Fleming
America was the most prosperous nation in the world, with the highest per capita income and the lowest taxes. The famous Boston Tea Party was symptomatic of the trouble brewing, but it was not the catalyst, as we are lead to believe. The men who came to be known as our founding fathers read transcripts of meetings of Parliament, and became aware that the British Government intended to levy huge taxes upon us. And so began a revolution.
In 1776, America was a melting pot, with only approximately 60 percent of the inhabitants of British descent. There were large, prosperous cities, with tavern keepers, merchants and lawyers at the top of society. Land owning farmers did well, too, usually being able to sell 40% of their harvests for cash. In America, there was a thriving middle class, unlike in the rest of the world, and there was great opportunity for upward mobility.
Oh, and George Washington didn't have wooden teeth. There were no dentists in America, and people's teeth often rotted out because they drank their tea with enormous amounts of sugar, as well as eating sweet treats. For the rich, dentures were made from hippopotamus teeth; poorer people had dentures made from the teeth of other animals.
This was a short book, but I'm glad I paid the $3 to buy it. It was a reminder of where we started, and how we have traveled to where we are today. And, as was said, the founders gave us a republic, if we can keep it.