The Fifth Dimension sang part of the Declaration of Independence in the late Sixties on their "Portrait” album.[1]  --  On Dec. 7, 1969, they included it as part of a medley that they performed (along with “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “People Got to Be Free”) on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Journal Gazette recalled Sunday, more than forty years later.[2]  --  "Believe it or not, the lyrics of 'The Declaration' were controversial at the time, considered an anti-government, anti-President Nixon protest.  At the time, statements like 'a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing, invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism' hit home for war protesters." ...






By the Joural Gazette editorial staff

Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN)
July 4, 2010


July 4, 1776, was indeed the day that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.  But the holiday could just as easily been celebrated July 2, the day the Congress voted to declare independence from Great Britain.

Most of the Founding Fathers who adopted the Declaration didn’t sign the document until August.


Not surprisingly, the Declaration went through several drafts, and some of the best-known phrases are not in all versions.  In fact, in Thomas Jefferson’s original draft, there is a ringing condemnation against slavery, including these words:

“He (the king) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.”

Jefferson was a slaveholder.  The Continental Congress deleted that section.


A popular e-mail that has circulated more than a decade on the Internet, often titled “The Price They Paid,” seeks to explain “what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence.”  Unfortunately, much of the information is wrong, exaggerated or misleading.

For example, the e-mail states that “9 of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.”  In actuality, according to, which researches the veracity of Web rumors, although nine signers did die during the war, none died from wounds or hardships inflicted by the British.  One, Button Gwinnett of Georgia, died in a duel with a fellow U.S. officer.

Speaking of Gwinnett, whose signature is the first one on the left of the document, a Gwinnett signature is considered to be one of the most valuable of any statesman or celebrity.  Only 51 are known to exist.  Earlier this year, a letter signed by Gwinnett brought $722,500 at Sotheby’s in New York.

Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, signers who became president, died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing.

George Washington did not sign the Declaration.  He couldn’t because he was no longer in the Continental Congress and was head of the Continental Army.


The words in the Declaration served as lyrics to a song by the Fifth Dimension, which had a number of popular hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Appearing on the “Portrait” album as part of a medley with the songs “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “People Got to Be Free,” the group sang it on “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Dec. 7, 1969, back then, just the 28th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Believe it or not, the lyrics of “The Declaration” were controversial at the time, considered an anti-government, anti-President Nixon protest.  At the time, statements like “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing, invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism;” hit home for war protesters.


Celebrations began as early as the first anniversary, with a big party in Philadelphia in 1777 that included fireworks, cannons, and toasts.

“Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more,” *The Virginia Gazette* reported after that celebration.

Some cities and states began recognizing the holiday a few years later; in 1870, Congress made the recognition national with an unpaid day off for federal employees.


All people of the world have “certain inalienable rights.”

Or is it “unalienable rights?”

Jefferson, who wrote the first draft, clearly used “inalienable.”

But the official version uses “unalienable,” possibly an edit by Adams, who was on the writing committee with Jefferson.

Which is correct?

Let’s turn to *The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style* from Houghton Mifflin Co., which states:

“The unalienable rights that are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence could just as well have been inalienable, which means the same thing.  Inalienable or unalienable refers to that which cannot be given away or taken away.”


Most Americans would be hard-pressed to name the 56 signers.  For every well-known name like John Hancock, Jefferson, Adams, or Benjamin Franklin, there are several lesser-known names like John Witherspoon, Caesar Rodney, and William Williams.

But history could have easily made all of the names prominent.

Consider, for example, Gwinnett’s fellow signers from Georgia.

Lyman Hall, a physician and minister, was an early revolutionary opposing British rule and, upset that Georgia would not send delegates to the Continental Congress, attended as representative of a single Georgia parish.  Some biographies say he refused to vote because he was not elected by a majority of Georgians.  (Does this bring to mind current political caucuses?)  Finally, after Georgia voted to send colonial delegates to the Congress, Hall was an emphatic supporter of independence.  Wanted by the British, he later had to flee from Savannah but returned as governor, where he was a strong proponent of education.

While Hall was born into a wealthy family and educated at Yale, the third Georgia signer, George Walton, was totally self-made, with limited education until moving to Georgia and studying law under a prominent attorney.  After becoming a lawyer himself, Walton later met Hall and was a quick recruit to the revolutionary cause.

After signing the declaration, Walton returned to Georgia not to resume legal practice but as a military colonel.  He was shot and taken prisoner by the British and was later freed in a prisoner exchange.  Like Hall, he served as Georgia governor, and later, chief justice of the state.


Then there’s New York delegate Robert Livingston, who attended the Congress, served on the committee that wrote the Declaration but did not sign it, possibly because the New York provincial assembly had not yet approved of the measure.

But Livingston played key roles in the early days of the nation, serving as the first secretary for foreign affairs and later as chancellor of New York.  It was Livingston who administered the first presidential oath of office to George Washington.

Years later, as the nation’s minister to France, he negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.