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Read about "manly firmness" (and the Declaration of Independence)!

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March 07, 2011 – Comments (0)

I was reading the Declaration of Independence last night, and came across the phrase "manly firmness," referring to the degree to which "Representative Houses" opposed King George's invasions. It will become one of my favorite phrases. 

That's just one of the interesting things I came across. Here are a few others: 

*The title on the document is not "The Declaration of Indpendence," but "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America."  A quick round of research didn't turn up exactly when it began to be known as the "Declaration of Independence." Immediately? A few years later? Once it needed fewer characters for Twitter-ing purposes?

*Quick, what are the first few words of the Declaration of Independence? No, they're not "We the people..." or "We hold these truths..." or "You are not the boss of me...." It begins "When in the Course of human events..." Not sure how many Americans know that. Not sure I knew that.

*There are some funny spellings of words -- e.g., "all experience hath shewn" -- but not as many as you'd think for a document written 234 years ago. (Is that how Ed Sullivan spelled "show"?)

*Goodness gracious, the Capitalization is Random. 

*I just like this phrase: "He [King George] has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures."

*Thanks to this sentence -- "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance" -- I will now tell my kids that they are eating me out of house and substance. 

*This pretty much sums up the complaint: "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." Need Jefferson write more?

*Perhaps he does, given this line: "He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death." I think there's a movie title in that last part.

*No historical document is complete without something that, to today's ears, sounds a bit un-PC: "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

*The 56 signers just wrote their names, except "Charles Carroll of Carrollton." Was he just showing off -- his way of saying "You may have the biggest signature, but the last time I checked, there's no town called Hancockville"?

*Here's the last line: "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." This observation comes from my colleague John Reeves, but whatever happened to honor? How can bank executives do what they did, then pay themselves big bonuses, and care little about the scorn heaped upon them? One of the reasons I'm an indpendent is because so much that comes from political parties are half-truths at best, which means they're at least half-lies. Why do people who lie so much have so much power? Where is their -- and our -- honor?

Robert Brokamp, CFP®, is the senior advisor for the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service.

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