John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and random topics. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. The original site,, at, and now at

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Independence of thought, too

On this date in 1776, the Continental Congress effectively chose independence. July 4 as the date on which the assembly formally adopted Jefferson’s great Declaration got to be the holiday. But it was on July 2, which John Adams thought at the time would be the commemorated date, that delegates voted approval of Richard Henry Lee’s resolution:

Resolved, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.

Not to pull you away from your barbecue and the fireworks, but I have a suggestion for your commemoration of our national independence. Take some steps toward intellectual independence.

Presumably in response to my post “The Republic of Moronia,” Mike Pope has recommended a look at, a Web site that examines the accuracy of statements by officials and other public figures. If you want to check on how well President Obama has kept his many promises, or the peculiar statements to which Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota is given, PolitiFact will provide many moments of satisfaction.

You are not subject to a remote and unsympathetic sovereign, nor to an unrepresentative legislative body (unless you live in the District of Columbia). Neither should you be subject in the formation of your political opinions — indeed, your view of reality — to the half-truths and outright falsehoods with which you are bombarded daily. It is your job as a citizen not to be gulled by the self-serving misrepresentations of elected officials or the distortions and fantasies retailed by charlatans on the air, in print, and over the Internet.

Mr. Madison and Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Hamilton, however vigorously they disagreed on other matters, were united on this point: They wanted you to be an informed and independent thinker, because on your ability to make informed and responsible choices rests the fate of the republic they created. As Mr. Franklin said at the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, you have a republic — if you can keep it.


  1. Well spoken, Mr. McIntyre. I thoroughly agree and wish there were more people who relied not on the evangelism of so many people on the Internet, radio, and print publications and more on their own faculties of logic and reason to make good decisions for their country and mine.

  2. "Yesterday the greatest question was decided which ever was debated in America; and a greater, perhaps, never was, nor will be, decided among men. The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other from this time forward, forevermore." --John Adams to Abigail Adams

    Nowadays, of course, July 2 is merely memorable for being my birthday.

  3. I wonder if I shall ever see the day my mailbox is not jammed with forwarded untruths, half-truths and misconceptions from people whose bullshit meters really should work better.

  4. My husband asks everyone to sign the Declaration in the NYTimes.

    But I think your way of commemorating independence is better.

  5. Is my disdain of Facebook driving me to irrelevance? (FB and I aren't BFFs.)

    I tried to visit your link to, but it repeatedly sent me to some generic Facebook page. Has Britney or Anonymous hacked your server?

  6. My blunder. I copied the URL to the damn Facebook location instead of the Web site itself. That has been fixed.