I had the chance last night to check out the copy of the Declaration of Independence on display at the Minnesota History Center for the Sesquicentennial. It is truly an awesome experience to get an up close and personal view of one of the world's oldest copies of one of the world's most important historical documents. The ink hit the paper on that document on July 4, 1776 -- the day commonly celebrated as the birthday of the United States of America. And here was I looking at an original copy of the birth certificate.
I grew up in Massachusetts, where colonial history is thick in the air. (I even had my own tri-cornered hat!) It's easy to view the figures of that time as bigger than life -- demigods in our pantheon of democracy. But they were human beings who had no idea what would happen when they signed their names to that "seditious" document. In an alternate history where the British won the war, the text books would tell us that the "Founding Fathers" were a group of radical separatists who were all hung for treason.
William Mitchell College of Law Professor Mike Steenson gave a nice spiel at the reception for the Declaration last night describing the history and what a revolutionary act it represented. Last night's reception was sponsored by the MSBA, RCBA, Federal Bar Association and Minnesota Lawyers Mutual. (As I have mentioned before, our parent company, Dolan Media, is the presenting sponsor for the Declaration, which will be here through the Sesquicentennial festivities. Click here for a Strib piece written by Dolan Media's founder and chair on the significance of the document.)
It seems obvious now the Founding Fathers took the right path, but it wasn't so obvious then. What was obvious was that it was a dangerous path. It's interesting to contemplate as you view a copy of the Declaration printed when the result of their actions was far from certain. What would you have done?