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.’” 

louie@hmbreview.com suggests that the full Declaration be read aloud on the Fourth of July.

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