Controversial Visions

July 4, 1776 — a date that lives on to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence and to celebrate liberation from the tyranny of an oppressive global empire. It was a day, like any other, marked by a decision made by a group of idealists in a small assembly room in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, PA, to ratify the radically egalitarian vision expressed by a visionary document.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the legendary figures of US history, who was the primary author of the Declaration, outlined his case for the separation of the thirteen American colonies from the British Empire, stating, unequivocally:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These words have since become one of the best-known and widely regarded statements of human rights the world over. Jefferson's document has since become the seminal text underlying all modern democracies, all of which may be traced back to this seminal event — the signing and acceptance of this document and it's vision by the continental congress.

And even so, the text and its author are not without controversy. At the time, this bold vision of the egalitarian rights of man and separation from a global empire were deemed radical to the point of being considered to be treasonous (by the British). And subsequently, the founding fathers have come to be criticized for being slave-owners and for holding double standards with respect to their slaves.

However, we must consider the fact that Jefferson's bold, controversial vision was, actually, in its inception, even more radical than we give him credit for. The original draft of the Declaration of Independence contained the following passage indicting the British Empire for the practice of human slavery and condemning slavery in no uncertain terms:

“[King George] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian king of Great Britain, determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce…”

The sad reality was that the horrific practice of human trafficking and slavery, as practiced by the global, Christian British Empire and its colonies, was so widespread and entrenched in society, that this passage was deemed as being too controversial by Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. They edited and amended Jefferson's draft to exclude this passage from the final draft that was adopted by the continental congress on July 4, 1776.

It took another 87 years until Abraham Lincoln, another legendary figure from US history, issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, to free all slaves in the United States. This executive order was controversial enough in the second half of the nineteenth century — one can only speculate on how much more controversial Jefferson's vision of radical egalitarianism would have been nearly 100 years earlier.

And yet, one can only wonder — what if the founding fathers had decided to leave that passage in — effectively to condemn the practice of slavery at the very outset — would that have given the modern civil rights movement a 100 year head-start? Would it have made the bloody, brutal US civil war unnecessary? Would we remember Jefferson, not Lincoln, as the heroic liberator of the slaves in America?

Controversy can often intimidate us from pursuing our visions — but one can only speculate on what the cost of abandoning or compromising on those visions might eventually be, in the long run!

At Horizon Cybermedia, we aim to hold true to our vision of pursuing the endless possibilities of modern digital media to redefine our cultural milieu. We aim for the horizon and we move boldly forward in our ongoing exploration of the constantly shifting seascape of digital media.

Do check out our current, ongoing web series, American Castle: the Secret World of William Randolph Hearst, and our YouTube channel.

Wishing you the very best,

Uday Gunjikar,
Founder and CEO,
Horizon Cybermedia.

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