Through painstaking historical research, actor Nicholas Cage has discovered the heretofore unknown transcripts of Committee of Five, the group tasked in 1776 with turning Richard Henry Lee’s proposal — that the English colonies in the New World declare their independence — into a formal Declaration of Independence.

The committee members, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston and Roger Sherman, convened in Philadelphia, not noticing that Jefferson’s aide, a Miss Hemmings, was taking copious notes. An excerpt:

Dr. Franklin (Pennsylvania): “We must build a case based on facts. As I have said, ‘If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.’”

Mr. Jefferson (Virginia): “How’s this: ‘Let Facts be submitted to a candid world …’ Like it?”

Mr. Sherman (Connecticut): “Oh, that’s excellent! You’ve got the knack for this, sir! But what facts will we submit?”

Mr. Livingston (New York): “I’ve got one, the King’s not letting us accept new immigrants into the colonies. How would you phrase that, Tom?”

Jefferson: “He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners.” 

Franklin: “He threatens judicial officers who defy him. How about that?”

Jefferson: “He has made judges dependent on his will alone.”

John Adams (Massachusetts): “The King allows foreign powers to interfere with us.”

Jefferson: “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation.”

Adams: “And, speaking of foreigners, he burdens our international trade.”

Jefferson: “How’s this: ‘Cutting off our trade with all parts of the world’.”

Adams: “A bit exaggerated, but I like it. Really, the worst thing he has done is to set us against one another.” 

Jefferson: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.”

Franklin: “Tell you what, Tom, you’re doing so well that the rest of us can toddle off to the tavern for a while. But you need a big conclusion, a statement that we’ve appealed to the King without success, and we’re not going to take it anymore, no matter the cost.” 

Jefferson: “Hmm, give me a minute. Here’s what I’ve scribbled down: ‘Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

‘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.’” suggests that the full Declaration be read aloud on the Fourth of July.

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